When the Volvo Ocean Race calls on Boston Harbor in May, every weekend sailor in the region will have a chance to sniff the air around a grand prix circus. So how did Boston "steal" the US stopover? We turned to the instigator, Bill Lynn of Marblehead, Massachusetts, an unassuming ace Etchells sailor and co-operator of Atlantis Weather Gear. He also has a background in advertising and a deep knowledge of the sailing world and its players.
SAIL: And how did it begin?
"In 2006 I had this thought to bring the America's Cup to Boston. We have a seafaring heritage, the highest average wind speed in the U.S., and one of the few harbors where you could accommodate the teams. I called my friend Ken Read to see whether he would be interested in trying to put something together, but, when we looked at the numbers, the costs were astronomical and probably out of reach."
"We turned our attention to the Volvo instead. Kenny had done the last four legs of 2005-06 on Ericsson, and he had the bug. Also, he said, the Volvo was the one sailing event that delivered measurable return on investment to sponsors. If we could field a Boston-based team, we might use that as leverage to get the U.S. stopover in Boston."
SAIL: And step one was?
"We spent a few weeks on a business plan and a presentation with pictures of out-of-control, logo’d Volvo 70’s. Kenny had sailed with a major Puma shareholder, and when Jochen Zeitz, Puma’s CEO, was in New York we got a meeting. He actually didn’t seem all that interested until we showed him a mock-up of a shiny red boat with a big white cat on it."
SAIL: How big a role did politics play?
It's all politics. PUMA's North American headquarters are in Boston. They made it a precondition that the stopover move here. The VOR wants more teams, so teams have leverage. It was still complicated, though. We needed to get the Mayor and the Governor on board with the concept — a bit of a challenge since neither Ken nor I had many connections in City Hall or the State House. Then we still had to convince Volvo that we weren't going to drop the ball, because Baltimore and Annapolis did an outstanding job on the stopovers they ran.