America's Sailing Capital?


Annapolis Mayor Alfred Hopkins loves his capital city, but he doesn't want it taking credit unless credit is due.

That's why the mayor has reservations about a newly approved resolution officially designating Annapolis as "America's Sailing Capital." It sounds awfully nice, and sailing is pretty big in Maryland's state capital on the Severn.

But bigger, say, than in Newport, R.I., which hosted the America's Cup race for 50 years?

As Annapolis' self-appointed historian, Mayor Hopkins has been sleuthing around trying to discover the basis for the city's claim, broadcast for years on a pretty sign on Rowe Boulevard. "Welcome to Annapolis," it said, "America's Sailing Capital." The sign disappeared when the State Highway Administration began renovating Rowe Boulevard. Mayor Hopkins says he never asked that it be put back "because, frankly, no one ever told me who authorized us as the sailing capital of America. I dispute that claim."

Nonetheless, Mayor Hopkins went along with the rest of the Annapolis City Council Monday night and voted for the resolution.

"But with my vote goes a challenge," the mayor said -- a challenge to other sailing cities in the U.S. to vie for the right to supreme sailing status.

Well, Newport just may be willing to pick up the gauntlet. Newport bills itself as the sailing capital of the world, but the city's director of tourism, Evan Smith, acknowledges that Annapolis, alone of all other U.S. cities, has a right to argue about that. "When you're talking about [contenders for the title of] sailing capital, Newport and Annapolis would make it," he says, "with San Diego maybe a distant third."

So let's settle this thing, he says. Let Team Newport race Team Annapolis. "Let's have the mayor of Annapolis and the mayor of Newport get together. . . agree on a type of boat, a time and place, and then duke it out. The winner gets to call itself the 'Sailing Capital of America.' "

It doesn't have to be a one-time thing. Hold the race every year, every two years, whatever. The "America's Sailing Capital" sign travels with the winner, a la the America's Cup. Make it a healthy rivalry, just like Army-Navy football. It would be great for sailing and a terrific public relations event for both cities.

How about it, Mayor Hopkins? The phone number for the Newport Department of Tourism is 1-800-325-6030. They're waiting to hear from you.


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