Op Sail & the Renaissance of Norfolk

Op Sail & the Renaissance of Norfolk

On the morning of 2 August 1975 the City of Norfolk was changed forever when a tall and stately lady came to call.

It was not a typical August day in Virginia.

The temperature was mild, a gentle breeze blew out of the southwest and a slight mist hung over the waters of the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.

Word had go ne out about the romantic lady who was coming by sea, and hundreds had gathered to greet her.

Sailing yachts, skip jacks, dead rises, power boats, and small craft milled about in the subtle mist that connected the sky to the horizon. Expectancy was palpable. It was 7:00AM.

The sun was struggling to penetrate the mist. And then a tiny, whi te speck appeared on the horizon.

As if the news had been broadcast, all the greeting boats ceased milling and pointed their bows into the east.

The white speck began to assume a form, and all attention was focused on it.

She was the Christian Ra dich from Norway, flying all canvas, with smart, proud cadets lining the gunwales.

The boats gathered around her, and the saluting battery of Fort Monroe blasted 21 guns as she sailed down the Elizabeth River to down town Norfolk-where she had nowhere to dock on city-owned property.

Thus, she docked at NOAA (Nati onal Oceanic andAtmosphericAdmin istration) around the corner from the southern downtown waterfront.

Thirteen thousand people crossed her gangway in one-and-a-half days, and the renaissance of Norfolk was about to begin .

Op Sail & the Renaissance of Norfolk It was also the beginning of a lasting relationship with Op Sail.

Two years before, Frank Braynard, a fo under of Op Sail, had invited Norfolk to be an “ourport” of OpSail ’76. W ithout hesitation the answer was yes.

But there was nowhere on the downtown Norfolk waterfront to dock a ship.

The City’s Bicentennial Commission had dismissed the concept of tall ships as “pie-in-the-sky.”

As a member of the marketing department of the City of Norfolk, it became my mission to make Norfo lk a major player in the Bicentennial tall ship extravaganza.

This was facilitated by the assistance of a re spected community leader and member of the State Bicentenni al Commission.

He said: “We’ll get the State involved.” And so we did.

The Governor hosted a luncheon on USS Kennedy for mayors and representatives of all cities in the Hampton Roads area,

Op Sail & the Renaissance of Norfolk and Op Sail Virginia became reality.

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