From small beginnings

In little more than a month, the much-anticipated Volvo Ocean Race returns to Galway.

Acknowledged as the greatest test of sailing prowess and human endeavour, the Volvo brings with it a spectacle, a global party that celebrates the best traditions of seafaring.

Yet three years ago it was a very small group indeed that ensured the first visit of the Volvo Ocean Race to our city not only came to fruition, but was a huge success. The weather played its part with an unexpected heatwave turning the city into a Mediterranean Mecca, while the energy and vibrancy of Galway and its citizens went a long way to ensuring the bosses at Volvo could not deny us a second chance.

Volvo took a risk and should be applauded, and again three years ago they brushed aside one of the prerequisites that a country should have an entry in the race and believed, despite the dire economics of the country, that Galway could deliver something special again. But there are also other differences this time round. On the first occasion Galway and Ireland were entering the unknown. The ability of the city to host something of the magnitude of the Volvo was questioned, and, let's face it, there was considerable scepticism right up until the day the oil tanks were removed, the race village opened, the sun shone bright, and thousands of spectators began flocking to the docks and embraced the occasion.

Tourism Ireland is another organisation that went out on a limb three years ago. However it bought into the idea and must be congratulated, so too our city council, which did all it could to facilitate the race.

Galway is extremely lucky and we should be thankful. New Zealand, one of the great sailing nations of the world, waited a decade for the Volvo to return, despite boasting infrastructure that had hosted other world sailing events, most notably the America's Cup. Miami mayor Tomas Regalado took a lead supporting role in "actively pursuing" the Volvo bid to "showcase our city as an international destination for sailors, uniquely characterised by our diverse culture and tropical location.”

Miami could also prove a turning point - not only for the Galway stopover next month, but for the legacy it can leave. The group of business people, including the Mayor, Hildegarde Naughton, and Galway Harbour Company CEO Eamon Bradshaw, have worked hard to secure commitments from a number of cruiseliners to use our port facilities - not just for the race, but into the future. The Volvo Ocean Race has provided the impetus for the new city port with planning permission for phase one being submitted tomorrow.

Give thanks to vision and belief three years ago of a handful of people. From small beginnings come great things.

Linley MacKenzie


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