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Volvo Ocean Race Heading to Newport, Not Baltimore

Feb 05, 2013 10:13PM ● By Anonymous

 Horse racing.

The last time the Volvo Ocean Race stopped in Baltimore was 2006, when the boats arrived the last week of April from Rio de Janeiro. Ocean Racing USA, the group handling Baltimore’s bid to be the only U.S. stopover in the 2014-15 race, advised that the boats come into town during the same time slot this time around, allowing Baltimore to focus its energy solely on sailboat racing and not horse racing. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake even advised the VOR committee herself, saying that “…to be clear, we cannot guarantee, and therefore cannot support the VOR on Preakness weekend.”

Because, of course, for the last 93 years Baltimore has hosted the Preakness Stakes on the third Saturday in May. To attempt to schedule both the Preakness and a major waterfront attraction simultaneously would be almost definitely overwhelm hotels, bring traffic to a standstill, and exhaust vendors. After seeing the crowds that events such as the 2012 Sailabration brought to Baltimore’s waterfront, Rawlings-Blake knew not to overextend her city’s resources.

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Both the mayor and Ocean Racing USA therefore pushed to keep the stopover within its historical timeframe, allowing Baltimore to be able to accommodate both events. But the VOR had another idea: just change the date of the Preakness.

The Preakness is run two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes, a schedule that has been in place since 1931. But this is not to say that the date of the Preakness has never been changed. In fact, twice it’s been run on the same day as the Kentucky Derby (May 12, 1917, and May 13, 1922). But Rawlings-Blake wasn’t about to mess around with a national tradition.

“Baltimore will only commit to an event if we are ready and able to guarantee success,” she wrote to VOR organizers on January 28. It seemed feasible that with three years to plan the event, a compromise could be made. When both sides refused to amend their schedules, Newport city officials received word that the Rhode Island seaport had been selected as the single U.S. stopover.