Thursday, February 11, 2010

AMERICA's CUP 33 - What's it like on the ground in Valencia?

The Stars and Stripes at BMW Oracle

The Multihull and its amazing wing, longer than a jumbo jet wing.

Let's face it - it is turning out to be the biggest non-event of the year.
Battle of the Giants? Giants these boats may be but they seem just a little too delicate for the job in hand - my sailing friends tell me - assure - me that a normal America's Cup yacht would have loved the conditions on Valencia's waters these past few days.
The Press room has been teaming with press from over 37 countries - over 900 of them all waiting with bated breath for what has been billed as the race to beat all races - and there is some urgency for many of them as they will have to leave for Canada to report on the winter Olympics which start this weekend. Who is going to care (apart from the protagonists and their yacht clubs) once the Winter Olympics get under way?
For those spectators who have made the effort to make it to Valencia for this AC33 will also be deeply disappointed that they won't even be able to see the BMW Oracle boat in the flesh, the construction of the 'wing' means that it is too dangerous to bring the boat into the Marina, so it is moored out in the commercial port and, unless you are invited as friends and family or press there is just no way to see it up close. (if the visibility is good and there is no crane in the way, you can just see the huge wing in the far distance) I have been lucky enough to see it in the flesh - a very early start to see the docking out ceremony - (more of which later) and it is stunning- huge and stunning.
Which brings us on to the racing - that too will take place (if it ever happens) miles out to sea. 20 miles or so - that is a very long way from shore (think Dover to Calais) and too far away to see with the naked eye, so you can really only watch the races on television or on the internet. There is a giant screen at the AC Park with a few scattered loungers around to watch from - but there are fewer and fewer spectators each day and so any atmosphere there was is less and less tangible. The highlight so far has been the incredible MascletĂ  at the opening ceremony. But if you are not a fan of noise and daytime fireworks and just want to watch good sailng, you won't have been impressed.
The AC Park has been spruced a bit but they were still fixing broken decking on the Veles e Vents building on the Monday, when racing should have already started. Though there is a bar open there are empty shops. There are a few stalls acting as tapas, burger, fondue and paella bars, and they are not bad value. The general consensus on the souvenir shops is that they are far too expensive, much more so than the previous America's Cup Merchandise.
It is fascinating to watch the press conferences (you can watch them online on the teams websites) and here them talking about how great the races will be - the question is - when.
Timothy Birch
Photos ©2010 Birch/Mike Adams

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