It’s official. As we revealed here on this page last week, Galway is set to host the biggest global party in Irish sailing history.
The finale and the prize-giving ceremony of the next edition of the world’s biggest ocean yacht race is coming to the west of Ireland, putting Galway once again firmly on the Volvo Ocean Race map.
Having staged the most impressive stopover last May, the Volvo Ocean Race committee has rewarded the organisers Let’s Do It Galway with a bigger and better opportunity than last year - to host the finale of this global event and also the overall prize-giving ceremony.
In making the decision to select Galway as the finish port for the 2011/12 event, Volvo has given Galway and its organisers the most positive affirmation of its ability to stage a world-wide event, passing over the company’s traditional Swedish home ports.
The selection comes after several months of intense negotiations between the organisers and the Volvo Ocean Race committee, whose chief executive officer Knut Frostad acknowledged last year that the Galway stopover was a “model” for others to follow.
Yesterday in Dublin, Frostad joined An Taoiseach Brian Cowen, members of Let’s Do It Global, and Failte Ireland, for the official confirmation and contract signing, saying he was delighted the race was returning to Ireland.
"I am very proud to confirm Ireland's participation and Galway will be a magnificent port to stage the finish of the event," he said.
Galway’s reputation as a party city and the incredible Irish reaction to last year’s stopover was a vital factor in its selection over strong opposition from several rival cities. Last year’s race finished in St Petersburg, but many felt it lacked the necessary hype which should surround the end of the world’s most prestigious ocean yacht race.
"We have already experienced the enthusiasm that abounds in Ireland for the race and we are looking forward to bringing the competition to its conclusion in a country that really knows how to celebrate," said Frostrad.
An Taoiseach Brian Cowen, whose government pledged €4 million toward staging the event after an initial refusal, said he was “more than happy” to welcome the race’s return to Ireland "given its economic benefits and its importance to Irish tourism”.
“The 2009 stopover in Galway made an abiding impression on the sailors, support crews, organisers and media, who were immersed in the warmth of an Irish welcome.
"Their presence, in turn, had an enormous beneficial impact on Galway, the west of Ireland, and indeed the entire country. Their arrival here was spectacular and their visit helped generate a massive €55 million for the regional economy - more than one third higher than the original projections.”
One of the key figures in securing the stopover, Enda O’Coineen, said there would be many commercial and marketing opportunities,
“We will be looking to the private sector and individuals to come in behind our global challenge," he said.
This will include the necessary funds to host the event at the Galway docks, which will require upgrading, and he hoped the local councils would row in behind the event again and provide the required commitment.
Fáilte Ireland chairman Redmond O’Donoghue said events such as the Volvo “provide Ireland with the ideal calling card to showcase its two strongest assets – our beautiful coastal landscapes and friendly people”.
“This is a great boost for tourism and Fáilte Ireland is delighted to be once more involved in supporting this event. As we saw last year, this festival certainly had a significant economic impact. Also, significantly, the pictures from Galway which were beamed all around the world strengthened Ireland’s image as a must-visit destination for tourists as well as our reputation for hosting future world class sporting events.”
Last May’s stopover attracted some 30,000 people to the docks for the arrival of the boats from Boston, with more than 650,000 visiting the race village during the two-week festival.
With Portugal and Lorient named earlier, Galway was the final European port to be selected for the 2011/12 edition. The remaining ports will be introduced during the remainder of March.