Anticipation built throughout the weekend in Costa Rica´s Caribbean port of Limón for the arrival of the leaders of the Transat Jacques Vabre sailboat race, with the expectation that the race´s first competitor will cross the finish line Monday morning.
On Saturday, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias arrived in Limón for the official inauguration of the finish-line festivities planned to receive the boats. Alongside members of the community and the directors of the Jacques Vabre committee, Arias cut the ceremonial ribbon to welcome the race, which will again finish in Limón in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
After a colorful welcoming party, featuring traditional Caribbean dances, local bands and other performances, Arias commented on the significance of the race to Limón, which is one of the poorer provinces in the country.
“Many times I have said that I am convinced that Limón is more than a poor province, it is an unnoticed province,” Arias said. “There isn´t another region of the country that has better conditions to integrate itself with the world economy, has similar tourist potential or the invaluable resource of a population that has a majority of bilingual residents…. We have made the arrival of the regatta a true party, a carnival in support of (the region´s) development that will encourage the sailboats to return.”
According to the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT), the port city of Limón expects to see income of more than €20 million from the investment and tourism generated by the race.
The regatta´s six-year commitment is expected to help put wind in the sails of a major renovation project for Limón initiated by the Costa Rican government. In June, President Arias signed an $80 million investment agreement, with the money to be distributed for five primary purposes, including a restoration of cultural buildings, drainage and sanitation improvements, and enhancement of municipal functions, small business development and port modernization (TT, June 19).
Throughout next week Limón will host tourists from a number of countries, many of whom are expected to remain in Limón through Nov. 30.
As of Sunday afternoon, the crew of Safran was leading the 10 remaining Imoca class sailboats. Safran, which is manned by two French sailors, is trailed by Groupe Bel, which was about 80 miles behind as the boats glided through the Caribbean. In the Multi50 competition, made up of non-traditional multi-hulled boats, the crew of Crepes Whâou had a commanding lead over the three other remaining participants. Crepes Whâou lead its closest competitor by 1500 miles.