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Thursday, May 03, 2007

The America’s Cup: Part I

The America’s Cup: Part I

Like everything else about Valencia, my knowledge of the America’s Cup sailing races is an ongoing operation. I’ve never really followed it in the past. I have thrown the races a peripheral glance whenever anything happened in the past that filtered down to the general public. Since Valencia is the host to the 32nd
America’s Cup and the first time the race has been held in Europe in its 155 history, it’s hard for me to avoid.

I have read that the city has spent 800,000,000€ in preparation for the races with most of this going into the new port facility. Since I arrived in November I have been aware of how much effort the city has been putting into making sure the races go off well and Valencia is seen around the world as a vibrant and progressive metropolis. From what I have seen so far it was money well spent.

On one of the first days I spent here in Valencia I remember seeing a really cute TV commercial about the Cup. In the ad a racing sloop was shown hoisting a sail in heavy wind with a quick cut showing a woman hanging a sheet on a clothesline on the top floor of an apartment. Next was a shot of water splashing over the bow of a sailboat with a cut to a group of little kids stomping in a puddle. At the end of the ad there was the message: La Copa de America: Lo vamos a ganar todos (The America’s Cup: We’re all going to win it). The commercials also aired in the local language. I suppose the first job of the organizers was selling it to the locals.

The port construction was impressive to watch. I ride by this way almost every day on my bike so I saw it progress over the past six months. The best way to show the new port is to direct you to the America's Cup website. The city has done a lot more than build the new port. All of the older buildings near the port underwent a facelift as well. There is new highway access to the port along with the brand new metro line that connects the port to the airport.

The new port is a sprawling amusement park with miles of walkways, dozens of new cafes and restaurants, playgrounds, visitor centers, concert venues, huge screen televisions for watching the races, as well as harbor facilities for your yacht (I spelled that correctly after only two tries). Because the distances between the facilities are considerable, bikes seem to be the favored mode of transport here. There are bikes everywhere. The port organizers are still installing bike racks as more and more people are realizing that this is the way to go if you are going to visit the new showplace of Valencia. It looks almost like Amsterdam with great hordes of bikes lying dormant everywhere.

The new marina is easy to get to from almost any part of the city if you are on a bike. There is a bike path Carril Bici that runs the length of the Avenida del Puerto which runs directly into the port and another on Avenida Blasco Ibañez for the north end of Valencia which ends at Malvarosa Beach a bit north of the port.

The Competitors

The teams are more under corporate sponsorship but they are designated by country. I guess jingoism sparks more interest in the race than rooting for a company. Here is a breakdown of the boats.

SUI - Alinghi
ITA - +39 Challenge
RSA - Team Shosholoza
NZL - Emirates Team New Zealand
ITA - Luna Rossa Challenge
FRA - Areva Challenge
SWE - Victory Challenge
ESP - Desafío Español 2007
ITA - Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team
GER - United Internet Team Germany
CHN - China Team

The Races

16 April - 12 June Louis Vuitton Cup - Challenger Selection Series

23 June - 4 July America's Cup Match by Louis Vuitton

The television coverage of the races is impressive. There are cameras on every boat in the race as well as helicopter shots and all sorts of strange angles. It is fun to be in front of one of the big screen TVs with a crowd of people cheering on a boat as it makes a quick sail change. I have done a bit of sail racing in my day but I certainly have a lot to learn. The port is a great place to finish my bike work-out in the afternoon. I can have a beer, sit in the grass, and watch some beautiful boats.

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