Gov. Dannel Malloy and other elected officials officially kicked off the “OpSail Challenge” today, with the governor promising up to $500,000 in state funding to match local fundraising for the event.
“This is an opportunity of people to remind people of our history of the greatness that is Connecticut and the contributions that have been Connecticut,” said Malloy at a press conference at .
OpSail 2012 will commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 with an visiting seven ports. This starts in New Orleans from April 17 to 23 and culminates in New London from July 6 to 8.
Malloy said the state will contribute one dollar for every two dollars raised for the event, up to a maximum state match of $500,000. John S. Johnson, chairman of the OpSail 2012 Connecticut committee, said the state will match both monetary and in-kind contributions and that the committee will return any money that is left after the event.
“We’ve probably raised, in cash and in-kind, over a quarter-million dollars,” said Johnson.
Malloy said OpSail 2012 will be included as part of a larger campaign to promote Connecticut as a place to visit, work, and live. He said he felt the southeastern part of the state is sometimes neglected by the state.
“It certainly has been in the forefront of my mind, as I think my numerous trips to this part of the state will testify,” said Malloy. “So we’re going to do some wonderful work together this year, and in the years to come, in promoting New London and the greater area.”
Malloy also said New London has a storied maritime history, including connections to the Revolutionary War and privateering.
Mayor Daryl Finizio thanked the state delegation for its support, and noted how the city . The money was given toward the event with the promise that it would be refunded after the culmination of OpSail 2012.
“Now is the time to raise those remaining funds to promote this great event and to ensure that working together we make it the success that it can be and that I know it will be,” said Finizio.
Senator Andrea Stillman (D-Waterford) said the event will enhance the reasons for people to visit southeastern Connecticut and thanked her legislative partners for their support of the effort.
“We really are a team, making sure that southeastern Connecticut and eastern Connecticut has the attention that it so deserves,” she said.
OpSail 2012 will be combined with New London’s annual Sailfest event for the weekend. OpSail 2012’s visit to the region will begin on July 6 with a welcome ceremony in Niantic, with a Parade of Sail to New London on the next day. Ships will be open for visits at State Pier, City Pier, and Fort Trumbull in New London and Groton.