Brazilian training ship committing to OpSail Connecticut identified

New London — OpSail2012 Connecticut on Wednesday identified a Brazilian training vessel that has committed to the July 6-9 event, saying it planned to identify several others in the coming weeks.

The Cisne Branco, a three-masted training ship commissioned by the Brazilian navy in 2000, will join the Coast Guard's homeported barque Eagle in commemorating the 200-year anniversary of the War of 1812 and the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," the theme of OpSail events taking place in six U.S. cities this spring.

The Eagle departs today for New Orleans, the first OpSail site, where events are scheduled April 17-23.

John Johnson, chairman of OpSail Connecticut's board of directors, hailed the Brazilian ship's participation.

"We are pleased to have this magnificent vessel taking part in our celebration," he said in a statement. "She is a full-rigged ship and her presence in the harbor will be seen and felt by those who visit OpSail."

Johnson, who said at a board of directors meeting Tuesday that the search for ships was continuing, expressed optimism in identifying the Cisne Branco.

"This is the first of several announcements we plan to make in the coming weeks," he said. "There will be a mixture of U.S. Navy ships; the Coast Guard's Eagle, America's tall ship; and a number of other sail ships of varying sizes."

OpSail Connecticut will take place in New London Harbor alongside Sailfest, the city's annual summer event.

The tall ships are scheduled to arrive in East Lyme's Niantic section July 6 and sail to New London the next day. East Lyme's annual Celebrate East Lyme event, which was scheduled to take place that day, has been moved to July 21, the town's first selectman, Paul Formica, said Wednesday.

"Sailfest is going to be operating in New London," Formica said. "It doesn't make sense to have Sailfest and Celebrate East Lyme at the same time — now you're competing for police presence, vendors. So this way we can all win."

"If the idea is to generate tourism in the region, this seems to me the most optimal way to do so," Formica added.

Celebrate East Lyme on its new date will cap "three successive weeks of significant tourism activity," he said. New London is planning a "Don't Miss the Boat" event for the weekend of July 14 to catch sight of the ships that will have been at Newport's Ocean State Tall Ships Festival 2012 the previous weekend.

"We should generate 1 million plus visitors extra to southeastern Connecticut, but instead of doing it all on one weekend, we're going to do it in three weeks," Formica said.

OpSail Connecticut has indicated it hopes to raise $1 million for its tall ships event. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, honorary chairman, has promised the state will match every dollar the group raises with 50 cents, up to $500,000.

Johnson reported at Tuesday's meeting that OpSail Connecticut has garnered some $365,000 in sponsorships from major companies and institutions in the region and is waiting to hear from several others. OpSail Connecticut has also raised $95,000 in merchandise, contributions and in-kind donations, according to a report submitted by Rob Simmons, the former congressman who serves as the board's treasurer.

The Cisne Branco, or "White Swan," one of the world's largest sail training vessels, was built at the Damen Shipyard in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and has an overall length of 256 feet. It is homeported in Rio de Janeiro.

Day Staff Writer Jenna Cho contributed to this report.


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