Malloy to Amistad: Show up at Sailfest or risk losing $400K

Looking towards the bow of the schooner Amistad.

NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH)–If you go to Sailfest in New London this weekend, you may not see the Amistad America.

Gov. Dannel Malloy urged the ship to show up at the festival, or possibly face the consequence of losing its nearly $400,000 in state funding.

There is plenty of space along the waterfront in New London for the Amistad to tie up, but whether or not it actually shows up is still wait and see.

“I was looking to see the schooner Amistad today and for the whole weekend at Sailfest,” said Jonathan Jablonowski of Watertown.

When the Amistad, which is the state’s flagship, cancelled, it left Sailfest with only one tall ship. The Virginia is already docked and ready for tours and day sales.

Hanifa Washington, Executive director of Amistad America, said the Amistad needs to get ready for a Coast Guard inspection.

Barbara Neff, who is organizing Sailfest, spoke with Washington on the phone.

“She’s running into a few issues she’s trying to deal with so I was just on the phone with her and she’s still trying to work it out,” Neff said.

The cancellation caught the attention of the governor who has threatened to “reconsider support of additional state funding.” Each year, Amistad America receives as much as $400,000 from the state.

In a statement, Hanifa Washington said: “We’re close to meeting the requirements that will allow us to safely move The Amistad to New London, but it’s still too early to say we’re going.”

Just days ago, she sent a letter to The Day newspaper, which in this article says “Washington chastised the newspaper’s coverage of the Amistad over the past year, and said that The Day is partially to blame for the decision not to bring the schooner to New London.”

News8 spoke to a volunteer media coordinator for Amistad America and he says Washington would be happy to talk to us but she is running around getting things the crew needs for the inspection. He didn’t know when that inspection was.

News8 is still waiting to hear back from Washington regarding our request for an interview. News 8’s Tina Detelj asked Barbara Neff is she can replace the Amistad if it doesn’t show up. She says “We cannot replace them so we just work with what we have.”

Whether the Amistad shows up or not, there’s still plenty to do at Sailfest. In addition to the vendors on the waterfront, Neff says they’re adding 200 more when they close the streets down on Saturday.

The much-anticipated fireworks will take place Saturday night.

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