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Maryland's status for '08 Volvo Race is cast into doubt

The Baltimore Sun

After struggling last time for an American presence, Volvo Ocean Race organizers announced yesterday that Puma, the international sporting goods company, will enter a boat in the around-the-world competition that begins in October 2008.

The entry of Puma, with international headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, and international public relations based in Boston, casts some doubt on whether Baltimore and Annapolis will serve as a U.S. port-of-call for the fourth time.

Officials of Ocean Race Chesapeake, the organizer of the local stopover, say they have not heard from Volvo headquarters whether there will be a change in U.S. stopover.

"Sure we worry about it," said Lee Tawney, local spokesman. "But the game is still the game. We look forward to a decision."

Race organizers have long indicated a preference for ports with ties to syndicates. In the past, Boston and Newport, R.I., have been mentioned as possible U.S. stopovers.

The PUMA Racing Team will be led by U.S. sailor Ken Read, a two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year with more than 40 sailing championships on his resume. During the 2005-06 Volvo race, Read joined Ericsson Racing Team for the last four legs.

Puma will also be the official supplier and licensee of replica gear.

The other announced entries in the nine-month race are Ericsson Racing Team, which competed last time, and the Mean Machine syndicate, backed by Dutch businessman Peter de Ridder.

The Volvo, in its 10th running, is expanding the 39,000-mile race to add stops in the Middle East and Asia.

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