Race organizers signed a Letter of Intent with Kochi on 26 April as a major first step in ongoing negotiations towards a full port agreement to host the world's premier offshore ocean marathon which starts in Alicante, Spain, in mid-October 2008.
Kochi was among a number of Indian ports in recent discussions with organizers.
The Kochi Port Trust, which will be responsible for organizing the stopover, with the full backing of the Kerala Tourism Department, welcomed the signing of the Letter of Intent and were confident that the stopover would give the port great exposure.
'India has never hosted such a prestigious sailing event and we are very excited that the Volvo Ocean Race is considering Kochi as a serious candidate for the competition,' said the Chairman of the Kochi Port Trust, Mr N. RAMACHANDRAN.
The booming shipping port on the Malabar Coast is now one of India's foremost tourist destinations and the race stopover is sure to bring thousands of additional visitors to both Kochi and the State of Kerala.
The Kerala State Tourism Department, a principal stakeholder in the exercise, envisages the event would bring significant visibility as well as economic benefit to the region.
'Kerala Tourism sees this as an opportunity to project Kochi as an exciting destination, and we will be happy to extend all support to the Kochi Port Trust to bring the event to the State,' said Dr VENU, Secretary, Kerala Tourism.
The Yachting Association of India (YAI), an active advocate of the race coming to India, sees the hosting of a stopover as an important boost to India's ongoing campaign to establish itself as a venue for hosting major sporting events following its successful bid to stage the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010.
'Hosting one of the world's top three sailing events will obviously boost any future bid to host major sailing as well as other sports events in India,' said Commander Ajay NARANG, Honorary Joint Secretary-General, YAI. 'It will also be a tremendous fillip for local sailing,' he added.
Volvo Ocean Race CEO Glenn BOURKE also greeted the Letter of Intent with Kochi as a significant step forward after months of discussions. 'India has hundreds of millions of enthusiastic sports fans and we know they will enjoy this challenging race, with its passion, teamwork, adventure and excitement.'
The race, established in 1973 as the Whitbread Round the World Race and lasting over nine months, will journey more than 39,000 nautical miles and visit up to 12 countries and ports on its new route.
After sailing from Spain via Africa, the fleet goes to the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia before a stop in China ahead of its longest leg of 12,000 nautical miles to South America. It then stops in on the US East Coast and Europe on the way to a Baltic port finish.
The ten-member crews race aboard the Volvo Open 70, the world's fastest monohull racing yacht, and the new route will provide huge challenges in physical and mental endurance as well as technology.The Volvo Ocean Race is an ISAF Special Event. For more information on the Volvo Ocean Race, the Volvo Open 70 and the teams competing, visit the official Volvo Ocean Race website - www.volvooceanrace.org.
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