The return of the America's Cup brand has special meaning in Newport, according to Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport and chairman of the event's host committee.
"We are one of the biggest and best ports for cruising, racing, and marine events in the world," Read said. "This is important for us, not only because of the economic implications but also because it reinforces Newport and Rhode Island as a tourism destination because of our amazing asset: Narragansett Bay."
The city by the bay has a long maritime history. Before there was a United States, Newport was one of the top five ports in colonial America — Charleston, S.C.; Philadelphia; New York; and Boston were the others. And during the Civil War, the Naval Academy was temporarily relocated there. By the end of the 19th century, it was a sailing playground for the rich. With the rich came yachts and yacht clubs. In 1883 the New York Yacht Club held its first regatta in Newport, and other international sailing events soon followed.
With the ocean and the bay, it's a natural.
Newport's setting will again be on display in July, when the seaside city hosts the Ocean State Tall Ships Festival.
The July 6-to-9 event will boast at least a dozen vessels including the HMS Bounty, featured in the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty.
Although Newport has hosted tall-ship gatherings before, this year's event has special significance as it marks the bicentennial of the War of 1812, according to Erin Donovan, executive director of Ocean State Tall Ships.
The event will be based along Newport's downtown waterfront.
"We made a conscious effort to keep it on the waterfront, close to restaurants and shops," Donovan said.
Together, the two events are expected to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors and generate nearly $100 million in spending.
Big nautical events aren't the only highlights on the Ocean State's summer calendar. Mark Brodeur, director of tourism at the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp., noted that the state will also play host to a big fishing tournament on Block Island and several music festivals including mainstays like the Newport jazz and folk festivals. This year's Newport Folk Festival sold out three months in advance.
Brodeur said that as gas prices remain high more people are looking for destinations closer to home. That could pay off for Rhode Island if tourists from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and other points in the Northeast decide to skip long trips for a shorter drive to the Ocean State.
"Sailing is always big, so is music," he said. "These kinds of events bring people back to Rhode Island."
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