Amidst the sweet aroma of ice cream and hot food, a large crowd of public, local dignitaries and businessmen welcomed the crews of the Volvo Ocean Race yesterday with a fun and colourful ceremony.
Original plans to march along the waterfront were amended when a drenching downpour broke without warning; the new setting became the bustling Harbourplace food court, much to the enjoyment of those lunching.
Led by a three-piece band and waving the national flags of their syndicate, the multi-coloured throng of sailing crews paraded several times around the second floor in time to the clapping and cheering of the spectators, before sitting down with city officials.
The ceremony gave the Mayor of Baltimore, Martin O'Malley and the Mayor of Annapolis, Ellen Moyer, the chance to thank the Volvo Ocean Race and it's sailors for coming to Maryland. The port organisers, Ocean Race Chesapeake, also showed their appreciation to the skippers by giving them a goodie bag from local football team 'Baltimore Ravens', presented by 'Poe' one of the cuddly Raven mascots.
Thanks were also given to the host cities from Helge Alten, Chief Executive of the Volvo Ocean Race, who expressed the delight of all those involved in the event, when he told the crowd that Baltimore/Annapolis was looking to be one of the best stopovers of the race.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation director, Will Baker, was pleased to be able to hand over a second present to the sailors. The foundation, which works hard on keeping the bay clean and tidy, asked the international sailors to assist them in their cause by flying a signed burgee during their stop in port. Before the start of leg seven to La Rochelle, the flags will be auctioned to raise a large fund for the establishment.
The Mayor of Baltimore rounded off the welcome by blowing a piercing air horn, signalling the release of large wafts of blue and white confetti, and the firing of the cannon onboard the USS Constellation. The proud sailors marched back out of the mall, accompanied by snippets of their team songs, still waving their flags wide and high.