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Galway takes the lead in battle to stage ocean race

Galway is aiming to repeat the massive money-spinner of hosting a stage of the Volvo Ocean Race after it was shortlisted to host the European stage of the gruelling race in 2012.

Having recently beaten Dun Laoghaire to host next year's International Offshore Powerboat Championships, which have been described as the Formula 1 of sailing, the City of the Tribes is now on a shortlist of three to host the European stage of the gruelling race in two years time.

The race generated €55m for the local economy last year.

But Galway will need strong Government backing if it is to land the lucrative race leg ahead of the capital of Portugal, Lisbon, and Lorient in France.

The chairman of Let's Do It Galway, John Killeen, who oversaw the successful bid last time, said Government support was needed if the race was to come to Galway again.

"The governments of France and Portugal are working hard to get the stopover and we need the Government to give Galway's application its backing," he explained.

"All that is needed now is the commitment. The money would not be needed until 2011 or 2012," Mr Killeen added.

It cost about €20m last year to bring the race to Galway and to fund the construction and running costs of the 70-footer Irish entry, the Green Dragon yacht.

But the two-week event attracted 650,000 visitors, €45m in direct spending and €10m in indirect expenditure in Galway and the west.

Ryder

A study by consultants Deloitte found that even with the economic recession, the Volvo Ocean Race provided an economic spin-off only just behind that generated by the 2006 Ryder Cup, which was valued at €143m, and the Six Nations in 2008, valued at €57m.

The race generated 200,000 bed nights in the area in late May and early June, achieving twice the impact of the Volvo 2008-2009 race stopover in Singapore, the report said.

Fine Gael senator Fidelma Healy Eames and her party will be backing the Galway's bid.

"This is an exceptionally good chance for Ireland."

She described John Killeen and his committee as "visionaries".

"Full marks to this group for seeing what was possible. They dreamed the dream and they delivered on it. It proved to me that if you put on the event, the people will come," she said.

Dun Laoghaire Cllr Maria Bailey said it was unfortunate the town's bid was unsuccessful. "It would have been a great boost. The boulevard area would have been finished and would have been directly across from the port."

hnews@herald.ie


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