A new permanent state commission will be created to help the state attract national and international sailing events, under legislation sponsored by Rep. Kenneth A. Marshall and Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. and approved by the General Assembly last week.
The Rhode Island Sailing Events Commission is envisioned as a way to help lure more boat races and other sailing and boating events — and the dollars their attendees spend — to the Ocean State.
“We saw the incredible economic impact of the Volvo Ocean Race’s stopover in Newport in 2015. It was such a success for Rhode Island as well as for the race itself that it didn’t take long for the organizers to announce they’d be back for the 2018 race. Rhode Island has also very successfully hosted tall ships events, black ships festivals, Chinese dragon boat races and of course, we were the home of the America’s Cup race for decades. We’re a great place for boating events, because we have terrific bays, harbors and waterways with nearby hotels and attractions. Plus recreational and competitive boating are deeply woven into our culture and history. With a concerted, statewide effort to seek them out, I’m sure we could be hosting more and reaping the economic rewards,” said Representative Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren).
Nearly 130,000 fans participated in the Volvo Ocean Race festivities during the 13-day event in 2015, with more than half traveling to Rhode Island from other U.S. states and abroad. According to a report commissioned by Sail Newport, the economic impact of the 2015 stopover on Rhode Island is estimated over $47 million.
“Hosting more events would help not only our tourism industry, but also our boating and sailing industries. Making Rhode Island a bigger name in the sailing world would bring people who buy boats here, and help foster closer connections between our boat-building and outfitting industries to many more people in the market for boats, particularly the elite of the sport who invest serious money in their boats. There’s a lot to be gained for Rhode Island with each event that we host,” said Senator Felag (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol).
Under the legislation (2017-H 5478A, 2017-S 1008) which passed the Assembly Sept. 19, the commission is to identify, evaluate, and provide recommendations to assist nationally and internationally recognized sailing and marine events, both amateur and professional, and to attract and encourage activity in Rhode Island. In addition, the commission shall advise state and local leaders on the suitability and practicality of hosting qualified marine events in the state.
The legislation designates 19 members including leaders from Rhode Island yacht associations, the Marine Trade Association, the Department of Environmental Management, the tourism industry, the City of Newport, Sail Newport, U.S. Sailing, Sail to Prevail, the New England Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association and members of the public.