For the second time in two days, Rhode Islanders rallied in support of the state’s bid to host the 34th America’s Cup. This time the location was the lobby of the Marriott hotel in downtown Newport. The crowd wasn’t huge, but the 250 or so people that attended was impressive given the 24-hour notice and the timing, so close to Christmas. Speakers included Evan Smith, president of the Newport Convention & Visitors Bureau; Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport and a member of the Rhode Island America’s Cup Planning Committee; Ken Read, CEO of PUMA Ocean Racing and three-time America’s Cup competitor; and Martha Sheridan, President & CEO of the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau. BMW Oracle Racing’s Tom Ehman was in attendance, but didn’t say anything aside from a few impromptu remarks when he was singled out by Brad Read.
There was little in the way of new information regarding the venue selection process or Rhode Island’s bid. But afterwards, I caught** Brad Read for a few moments. Read had been the voice of moderation on the RIACPC. He’d long held that the state’s prime goal should be to host one of the America’s Cup World Series events**, that the America’s Cup match was destined for San Francisco and beyond reach. In the last few weeks, however, he’s taken a much more positive stance regarding the match being sailed from Fort Adams. So I asked him about his change of thinking. He’s the transcript of the interview.
Sailing World: Six months ago you were the voice of moderation on the Rhode Island America’s Cup Planning Committee, the one saying the focus should be on one of the World Series pre-regattas and not the Cup itself. What has changed your mind regarding hosting the 34th America’s Cup match in Newport, R.I.
Brad Read: I would say it was BMW Oracle’s understanding of the dynamics of what we had. Their research that has led them down the road that Rhode Island is appropriate in size and has the facilities that they would want for the Cup. There’s a lot of work to be done. This is a lot of work. The key to me is the state of Rhode Island’s commitment to the intermodal transportation, that will be what makes this a success. The new transportation hub at Wickford Junction that can feed into Quonset, that can feed onto fast ferries, that can feed into an infrastructure augmentation at Fort Adams State Park to get tens of thousands of people across the Bay on boats is going to be absolutely crucial for the success of the event. And they believe that the infrastructure is in place and I think Rhode Island believes they can get those people across. Not only [via] the bridge, not only in shuttle busses from outlying parking. But the infrastructure needed for intermodal, by water, exists and that has really led me down to the road to say this is possible.
Can you give us a visual of what an America’s Cup village at Fort Adams will look like? The current vision is much different from the original pitched last summer, which featured team bases along the eastern flank of the fort?
You’ve been to a Volvo Ocean Race village, it’s a lot like that. The shoreside amenities and shoreside bases, the team bases, will be container bases with tent structures where you can put the boat inside, take the wing down, put it in it’s own little tent beside the base. You pick the catamaran up, wheel it into your tent, work on it.
This is the main Fort Adams parking lot?
This is the main parking lot with some changes that EDC is working on. EDC has done a really nice job hiring an engineering firm that we’re meeting with tomorrow. We’re working with them to see what’s appropriate for the public access nature of Fort Adams State Park. What the leave-behinds are going to be so people can still enjoy the viewscapes that they have in the park and a leave-behind for public access to boating: J/24 fleet, Shields fleet, Melges fleet, Laser fleet, learn-to-sail programs. All of those things are augmented by the leave-behind from the America’s Cup.
Then the fort itself, the north lawn, the parade ground inside the fort becomes…
That’s the public village. That becomes the stadium seating because the racing is inside [the East Passage]. There are a lot of things we can do. The BMW Oracle folks are very thorough in looking at our ability to host the race on the water, off the water, to get people back and forth. We understand the dynamics of what that is. And they understand it. They think we can do it and I think we can do it.
If, in 9 days, BMW Oracle Racing announces the San Francisco, or Italy, will host the 34th America’s Cup. How does Rhode Island not feel used?
I don’t think we’re being used. I think they honestly feel this an appropriate venue. It has opened our eyes to the ability to have a marine aquatic center. I don’t think we’re being used because it’s going to bring us farther down the road to these amenities that we’re already planning. This is a springboard to get things done that we’ve wanted to get done for years at Sail Newport and Fort Adams.
Of course, money is the prime issue. Are you any closer to determining just how much the state would have to kick it to get this facility up to BMW Oracle Racing’s standards?
We’re still working on it, but we’re getting there. We have some really good numbers from Fort Adams Trust because they’ve been planning for years on their ends. So we have those numbers. Now it’s just the marine side.
The marine side is…**
Docks, some fixed piers. All these reports that we’re going to have to bulkhead all these things. They’re catamarans and they only draw 4 feet without the blades, and they made a rule that got to have rudders than came come up. That whole aspect of the leadmines [doesn’t exist]; you don’t need travel lifts. You don’t need the huge amount of dredging that would’ve been needed to get 18-foot-draft IACC boats in the water. So those amenities can fit already. The hard part is making sure we have enough land space for 10 teams bases.
Is there enough space?
We’re working on it. I’ll tell you tomorrow.