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Challenge ships steer clear of city – this year, anyway

Toledo missed the boat in hosting the 2001 Great Lakes Tall Ship Challenge, but the city is setting its sights on being involved in the event in three years.

Nearly 14 tall ships will bypass Toledo this summer when they make calls in Cleveland and Detroit, parading and offering deck tours and training sessions in between the 2001 Challenge's series of training races.

During the races, which occur between ports of call, crew members learn nautical skills and the importance of teamwork.

Toledo officials expressed interest in 1999 in hosting a visit by the ships this summer. The officials were approached by the American Sail Training Association, which organizes the event.

“These ships cost anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000 each to bring in,” said Kelly Rivera, vice president of the International Park board. “We weren't able to raise that kind of money. It's not something one agency can do alone.”

The visits draw hundreds of thousands of people, said Lori Aguiar, the sail training association's program coordinator.

“When we started making the plans, I visited 27 ports - all of which expressed interest, including Toledo,” said Steve Baker, 2001 Challenge director, who visited Toledo in the fall of 1999. “After I got there, I met with the officials, and I never got a response again, and I didn't pursue it,” he said.

However, the Ohio Bicentennial Commission plans to bring as many as 30 tall ships to Toledo in 2003. The state has hired International Management Group to enlist corporate sponsors to help finance the event.

The city hopes to host the vessels participating in the 2004 Great Lakes Tall Ship Challenge.

“The thing is to raise enough money for that to happen,” said Edward Goyette, director of the S.S. Willis B. Boyer Museum Ship docked at International Park.

To host a visit by ships in the 2004 Challenge, the city will need funding from the private sector.

The bicentennial festivities could help prepare the city to host the Challenge ships in 2004, Mr. Goyette said.

Ships participating in the 2001 Challenge are at Kingston, Ont., through Tuesday; Port Colburne, Ont., Thursday through July 8; Cleveland, July 11-16; Detroit, July 19-22; Bay City, Mich., July 26-30, and Muskegon, Mich., Aug. 9-13.

Some Toledo entrepreneurs are hoping to attract some of the individual ships involved with the 2001 Challenge on their way back through the Great Lakes after the event ends.

The race schedule rotates every year. The event will be in the Pacific Ocean in 2002 and in the Atlantic Ocean in 2003, then back to the Great Lakes for 2004.

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