THE WHITBREAD Round the World Race has been a bonanza for Baltimore. A half-million people visitedWaterfront Festival '98 at the Inner Harbor to inspect the sleek boats during a pause in their nine-month, 31,600-mile race, which began and ends in England.
The competitors marveled at Baltimoreans' enthusiasm and boating knowledge. With the nine boats reversing course on the bay to begin the next-to-last leg in their contest, Annapolis becomes the focus of the Whitbread festivities.
Maryland's (sailing) capital has been bracing for an enormous influx. Not only are the Whitbread racers in port, but the Spring Boat Show is at City Dock. On top of that, the annual Chesapeake Bay Bridge Walk is Sunday, as the Whitbread race resumes. In all, the city may accommodate more than 200,000 people, five times its population.
Visitors and Annapolitans agree on two things about the fair city: It is beautiful, and it was laid out for 18th-century horse-and-buggy transportation, with scant parking to accommodate residents, workers, shoppers and tourists on a routine day.
To handle this weekend's crowds, officials are running shuttle buses between satellite lots and attractions to discourage people from driving downtown.
City officials have created a radio station to broadcast traffic updates.
Planners might consider this a dress rehearsal for May 22, when President Clinton is to deliver the commencement address for the U.S. Naval Academy, hours before traffic begins the traditional bridge clog for Memorial Day weekend.
Patience will be essential this weekend. Parking lots will fill quickly. Visitors should be prepared for lots of walking. Finding a restroom or a table in a restaurant will be a challenge.
However, if you attend, don't let any of these inconveniences overshadow the fact that this weekend celebrates the best that Annapolis and Maryland have to offer.
Pub Date: 5/01/98