The 2005 Tall Ships leg in Waterford was superbly chaired by Nicky Fewer, who sadly passed away in March.
Mr Fewer’s nautical passion and business nous made him an outstanding spearhead for the event and filling his shoes shall not be an easy task for those appointed to select his successor.
While no formal announcement about the details of the Waterford leg of the race has yet to be made, this newspaper understands that City Hall has identified several outstanding candidates for the Chairman’s position.
“We’re approximately two years away from the Tall Ships Race, and there are many issues which need to be carefully planned and considered,” said a spokesperson for the City Manager.
“Obviously, who succeeds the late Nicky Fewer as Chairman is one of the priority issues that’s currently up for consideration and while the City Manager has someone in mind, we don’t have a public announcement to make yet as to who will fill the Chairmanship.”
The City Manager’s office is also consulting with Waterford Chamber and other interested parties regarding the selection of the new Chairperson.
The issue of who chairs the Waterford leg is of critical importance to the event’s success, according to City Councillor Mary Roche.
“We need a capable, vocal and savvy person in that post and I can certainly think of a few people in Waterford whom I think would do a terrific job,” she said.
“But I do feel we need an announcement about who that person will be very soon. This is a huge event for Waterford to host and we need to get the loudspeakers out and the publicity wheel rolling. Two years will pass by very quickly and before we know it, the Tall Ships will be here.”
Winning the PR battle is an essential element of the Tall Ships Chairman’s ‘modus operandi’ in Cllr Roche’s view.
“Look at the recent Volvo Ocean Yacht race in Galway for example, a much smaller event than the Tall Ships Race which, from where I was looking anyway, got a hell of a lot more media exposure nationally than the Tall Ships in Waterford did four years ago.”
She added: “A lot was made about the 450,000 or so visitors which Galway got over a two-week period: we got that many in Waterford in a single weekend when the Tall Ships were here!
“The powers that be in Dublin put a shedload of money into the Volvo Ocean Race and I cannot see any reason why the same cannot be done for the much larger event to be held here in Waterford in two years’ time.
“I don’t want to sound mealy-mouthed about this, but I can’t help thinking that Waterford doesn’t get a fair crack of the whip from both a financial perspective or in terms of media coverage.”
Cllr Roche also voiced her concerns over the condition of the North Quay, which played host to most of the Tall Ships which sailed into Waterford in 2005.
“I was over there a couple of weeks ago and, from what I observed, it’s in a far worse condition than it was four years ago, particularly the quay wall where the ships would be expected to berth,” she said.
“I’m worried about it, there’s no point saying otherwise and it’s just highlighted what a shame it is that the planned redevelopment of the North Quays didn’t proceed when cash was flowing in the city.”
With more pressing matters to currently deal with, it’s widely expected that Port authorities will do what needs to be done regarding the North Quays ahead of the Tall Ships’ return.
Regarding Government support, the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism told The Munster Express: “Neither the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism or Fáilte Ireland have received a formal application from the City of Waterford in relation to the Tall Ships Race 2011.
“On receipt of same and based on the successful outcome of the assessment process the State tourism agencies will work together in developing a strategy to publicise the event based on the opportunities available with particular emphasis on the events overseas as part of the Tall Ships network of events.”
Waterford will be the starting port for the 2011 race, which is expected to held in the city in late June of that year.
The magnificent fleet will sail from Waterford to Greenock in Scotland, and from there it will cruise-in-company to Lerwick in the Shetland Islands.
The ships will then race across the North Sea to the Norwegian port of Stavanger, with the third race of the series taking the Tall Ships to Cuxhaven in Germany.