Ocean Racing Fans in North America have been biting their nails waiting for Knut and his overseers at Volvo to announce which US city would be hosting the 2012 North American Volvo Ocean Race stopover. Newport, RI has been fighting hard to get the carnival to their town, undeniably yachting’s center on the Atlantic Coast, but ever since rumors began swirling around a Miami stopover we’ve been combing the interwebs for information to give us more insight into what the "Gateway To Latin America" could offer to the Volvo folks that Newport couldn’t. And it wasn’t easy – between the Miami group’s secrecy and the Newport folks fear of rocking the boat, getting info required a lot of searching and a lot of luck, and still we only confirmed the info a day before it will be made public, though we think the decision was made weeks ago, if not longer. And while Newport has its ugly points, you can’t argue with its sailing history and heritage or the passion for its inhabitants pursue their sport – it is a hell of a sailing town.
But Miami? Not so much. It’s far better known for pink blazers, beachfront towers, and twin-big-block Donzi speedboats driven by guys named Rocco than for sailing. But that characterization – however true – ignores what it does have – the most influential and successful disabled sailing program in the US (and possibly the world) in Shake-A-Leg, an Olympic sailing center and the huge Orange Bowl, prestigious Star and Etchells regattas on Biscayne Bay, and the recent explosion of sportboat racing, all centered around Coconut Grove. And aside from some local big boat handicap racing and a near-defunct annual regatta, that’s it – there’s nothing like the huge and dedicated sailing community that the Northerners have up in New England.
So why Miami? Well, it wasn’t cash as far as we can tell. The City hasn’t committed a dime, and Pina’s committee doesn’t have much either. But Miami has something else: A huge latino population, and we hear that Telefonica was very clear on their desire to be in front of exactly that: The cellular giant has a huge presence throughout Central and South America. And something else about the Latino culture: It understands festivals and big, colorful, sponsored crap a hell of a lot better than the apathetic non sailors in Baltimore or Boston who simply don’t show up in big numbers – ever – for a sailing event. Hell, Telefonica Blue looked a lot more like those airbrushed chicken buses in Central America than like anything that the typical ‘mercun’ associates with sports. And one more thing: It’s warm in Miami, and until summer, there’s usually good breeze.
Check back tomorrow for a short Innerview we did with Mr. Pina. We certainly wish him luck, and hope he can prove that the Miami stopover the last time around was just a fluke. We’ll be watching.
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