At last sponsors can see America's Cup style come to ocean racing


Wow! The Barcelona World Race ? Let me tell you, OC Events and their Spanish partners have done a fantastic job here and it is such a shot in the arm for ocean racing.

The nine Open 60s taking part are all lined up on a pontoon in Port Vell, a short promenade from the Barcelona Boat Show. They’re all right there on view to observers and passers by, and there is quite a lot of preparation to watch.

And then there’s the race centre, a three-storey construction that is like a genuine VIP club. This is the first ever taste of America’s Cup style come to ocean racing. Normally, everyone’s housed in a windy marquee.There might be a grotty bar and the PR and press area is a dimly lit place strung with Cat 5 cables, everyone fighting over a handful of sparking power outlets and hunched over sheet-covered trestle tables like a caveful of troglodytes.

Here, it’s like Virgin Upper Class. It is fashionably tricked like a boutique hotel with three bars and balconies overlooking the fleet. Everything is available in several languages and looks 100% professional. For example, the skippers’ press conference today was in Spanish and French with simultaneous translation into English. It walks and talks like a modern, smart, high value global event, not some sporting poor relation.

If were a sponsor I’d be purring. What a place for them bring corporate guests to and sprinkle some stardust on your range of cement products and pet pharmaceuticals. If you didn’t like this – and how could you not – then there’s the architecture and the shopping and the autumn sun to satisfy your guests.

Funny, because last week at a grey Channel ferry port in November, the Open 60s looked as if there were careering towards the summit, with build costs now nudging £3 million and four-year campaign costs beginning to approach £10 million. Here in Barcelona, backed by this class of organisation, they start to look like something that can be spoken of in the same breath as Formula 1.

Well done to Mark Turner and his team for turning the vision into reality. It will be hard for the IMOCA class to go back now.

Except perhaps that their next event is the Transat in Plymouth next summer. Hmmm? Cap’n Jaspers chip wrappers, incontinent seagulls, binge drinkers and street fights – won’t that be a slightly tougher one for Turner’s gang to polish?