AMERICA’S CUP WORLD SERIES
Preparations get rolling for June event
By Sean Flynn
Officials from the America’s Cup Event Authority have begun preparations for the America’s Cup World Series that will be coming to Newport on June 23-July 1, when up to 90,000 visitors are expected to pour into Newport.
Tom Hipkins, the America’s Cup Event Authority project leader for Newport, and Susan Maffei Plowden, event manager, are preparing for the shipment of 100 containers to Quonset Point after the races in Venice, arranging for housing and meals for the teams and race management, looking at bus and harbor shuttles that will serve Fort Adams where the event village will be, drafting race guides and maps, and doing the hundreds of other things that must be done before the races begin.
The America’s Cup Event Authority plans to open an office in the Eisenhower House at Fort Adams State Park soon after Jan. 1, Hipkins said during a meeting with organizers at The Daily News earlier this week.
City, state, police and fire officials are working with the organizers in a task force and drawing from their experience with other major Newport events such as the jazz and folk festivals and the Tall Ships visits of 2007, 2004, 2000 and five other times since the Bicentennial event of 1976. The city also hosted all the America’s Cup races from 1930 to 1983.
City officials say they have a template for such events, but the America’s Cup event next year will be followed quickly by the Fourth of July celebrations and Ocean State Tall Ships Festival 2012 on July 6-9.
The America’s Cup races will be like nothing Newport has ever seen, the organizers promise.
The race will take place in the East Passage of Narragansett Bay between Fort Adams in Newport and Fort Wetherill in Jamestown, not out in Rhode Island Sound like many past sailing races.
The sailors will be racing against each other at high speeds on a course visible from the shorelines. During the races in Plymouth, England, the second stop for the World Series, boats capsized.
“There is a lot of crowd engagement,” Hipkins said.
“The goal is to bring the event as close to Fort Adams as possible,” said Paul C. Harden, executive director of America’s Cup RI.
There will be both fleet racing, when all the boats compete against each other, and match racing, when the competitors are paired off against each other. All the match races will be approximately 20 minutes long. “The whole race is geared to non-sailors from the public,” said Judy Chong, spokesperson for the state Economic Development Corp. The races take place in fast 45-foot catamarans, much different from the yachts that formerly competed in America’s Cup competitions. The America’s Cup finals scheduled for San Francisco will be contested in 72-foot catamarans.
The catamarans don’t have sails; they have fixed wings that harness the wind efficiently. There is at least a 3:1 ratio, Hipkins said, so that five knots of wind becomes 15 knots of speed for the boat.
Organizers say there will be 10 teams in Newport racing 12 catamarans, since two of the teams have two boats. The races began in Cascais, Portugal, and then moved to Plymouth, England, this past summer before continuing in San Diego last month.
The end of the San Diego races marked the halfway point in the 2011-2012 America’s Cup World Series, which resumes in April in Naples, Italy, and May in Venice before concluding in Newport. The final standings on the leaderboards for this series will be determined in Newport, so interest in the races should be at a peak. State Tourism Director Mark Brodeur said this week the races in Newport will have an international audience. When they take place here during the afternoon, it will be prime time for evening television viewing in Europe, he said.
Brodeur also pointed out there are 50 million people who live within 300 miles of Newport, a big market in which to promote interest in the races in the coming months.
“We can tap the Boston and New York markets,” he said.
The America’s Cup Event Authority has partnered with YouTube to provide online videos of the competitions. There are about 50 people involved in producing the videos and television coverage traveling with the event.
For those who followed the races so far, they have been competitive, with several changes among the leaders.
The Oracle Racing team headed by Jimmy Spithill, the skipper who won the America’s Cup for Oracle in Valencia, Spain, in February 2010, is now in first place in the Fleet Racing Championship and second place in the Match Racing Championship. Emirates Team New Zealand is first in the match races and second in the fleet races.
The Oracle Racing team skippered by Russell Coutts, the chief executive officer of Oracle, is fourth in the fleet races and sixth in the match races. Other teams in the standings include Artemis Racing from Sweden, Team Korea, French team Aleph, Energy Team, also from France, Green Comm Racing of Spain and China Team.
“We’ve seen a lot of different race winners, which is a really good thing,” Regatta Director Iain Murray said in San Diego, where both French teams and China Team all won fleet races for the first time.
While America’s Cup Event Authority officials now expect 75,000 to 90,000 people to be attracted to the event, they estimate 12,000 to 15,000 of those people will be at Fort Adams. There will be ticketed admission to Fort Adams where the event village is located, similar to the operations of the jazz and folk festivals. General admission tickets are expected to be in the $20 to $50 range, Harden said, with more expensive reserved seats available.
“There could be lower-cost seating in the lawn area,” Brodeur said. “The ticket prices will be reasonable. You can pay $11 to see a movie. This is $20 for an entire day.”
All the visitors, whether at the fort or not, are expected to eat and shop downtown during their stay, and some will stay in the hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast inns on Aquidneck Island, so the economic boost is expected to be significant. For the combined events of America’s Cup and Tall Ships, state officials are expecting a combined economic impact of $92 million those two weeks, of which $70 million would be from the America’s Cup event.
After the containers from the teams and the Event Authority arrive at Quonset Point on June 4-5, they will be transported by truck to Fort Adams, Harden said. The team bases to be set up on designated pads at Fort Adams will take care of racing boat repairs, but local marine retailers and boat shops are expected to be busy. Many visitors will be coming to the area by boat. There will also be vendors and concession stands around the event village.
The event village will open to the public on June 23, a Saturday. The following three days will be days of practicing and getting acclimated. The racing will take place between June 27, a Wednesday, and July 1, a Sunday. The docking space for the 12 boats will be near the fort, and organizers are hoping six to eight boats will be in the water at all times during the event’s duration for spectators to see. The boats will be regularly lifted out of the water by cranes for dry-docking and repairs.
Each team consists of 40 to 50 sailors, designers, cooks and other personnel. Besides the teams, there will be about 250 people from the America’s Cup Event Authority and race management. There will be different events held at the mansions and downtown locations that the authority will help arrange. The organizers also are looking for corporate sponsors. Teams and organizers will need lunches during the day. Those are all business opportunities for caterers. The event organizers are working with the Newport County Chamber of Commerce before requests for proposals are sent out, Plowden said.
Because vehicle traffic can back up on the way to Fort Adams, organizers are hoping to have as many water taxis and shuttles as possible transporting people from downtown to the fort.
In preparing for the event, some trees have been taken down around the fort to make space and open up the view of the fort. New docks, better lighting and electricity upgrades are planned.
There is expected to be a long-lasting benefit for Newport after the races leave town. The upcoming work at Fort Adams will better position the site to be a host for future events, state officials say.
‘The goal is to bring the event as close to Fort Adams as possible.’ PAUL C. HARDEN, executive director of America’s Cup RI