Yachting World's Michael 'Beattle' Beattie flies to Valencia for a spot of America's Cup watching and comes back with his Top Tips
If anyone is a yacht racing fan or just appreciates any sport being played out at the highest level then I fully recommend getting online or heading down to your local travel agent to get yourself a ticket to Valencia.
I have just returned from a long weekend in Spain’s 3rd largest city, currently playing host to the Louis Vuitton Cup leading up to the 32nd America’s Cup.
After convincing one of my colleagues that it would be a great idea for a weekend in Valencia we found ourselves at Stanstead airport early last Friday morning jostling in the boarding queue with sailing enthusiasts, stag parties and European weekend break types.
Within a couple of hours, with just a small bag as hand luggage, we were in a taxi and reasonably confident that the cab driver had interpreted our attempts to explain that we wanted to head to the Port America’s Cup.
Beatle’s Top Tips ( BTT’s ) – Taxi journey takes about 25 mins & costs approx 17 – 20?
If you have ever tried to attend a large event you will know that getting there is only the start of the cost and organisation involved.
Upon arriving at the main entrance of the event we realised that the whole location has a perimeter fence and an airport security style entrance. In this day and age we did not find that extremely surprising but what was surprising was that there is no admission charge. Can’t remember when I last went to the rugby, cricket, boat show or a major event and where the organisers hadn’t tried to relieve me of my hard earned cash at the first possible opportunity!
The America’s Cup is possibly the only international sporting event to actually go on longer than the cricket World Cup. The finals are scheduled to finish at the beginning of July which gives you loads of time to still attend.
The first thing that struck me on arrival was the sheer size of everything. It is hard to believe that all the team bases are essentially a temporary sailing base which will be pulled down once the event has finished.
This is the Formula 1 of the sailing world without a doubt. Whilst the teams are not too keen on allowing you in for a snoop around or a cup of tea unless you are one of their many invited guests, you can actually get quite close. The current holders, Alinghi, have tried to make this cup more user friendly to the man on the street. They have an interactive facility at their base which is worth a look. On the water outside their base you can get on board a real boat which is set up with an interactive screen so you can get behind the wheel of a cup boat. Although the boat does not go anywhere it is set up to heel when you’re on the breeze.
BTT’s – The Cup site gets extremely busy in the afternoon when the racing kicks off just after lunch and remains busy long after the racing finishes. If you have not over done it the night before it is worth getting down to the cup village in the morning if you want to get around and experience the facilities without the crowds.
There is certainly enough to keep you interested and busy over the course of a long weekend especially if you are keen to watch all the racing. There are a number of options for getting your fix of racing ashore and afloat.
If you want to go afloat there is an official company which has a number of offices around the site where you can book tickets. I believe tickets can also be pre-booked via the official America’s Cup website www.americascup.com There also seems to be a number of private vessels offering trips out and we where approached on the first morning and asked if we where looking to get out on the water. Luckily a colleague had arranged a day out for us on our second day.
BTT’s – The official trips seem to cost approx 100? but this did vary slightly depending if it was a weekend or week day.
If you do get the opportunity I would recommend getting yourself afloat. You not only see the racing, it is a great atmosphere motoring back into the America’s Cup harbour at the end of racing with all the fans lining the harbour and cheering their teams as they come back from battle. You do really feel like you have been a part of it.
When watching the racing on the water you really do get a sense of the talent of the sailors and the power of these amazing machines when they are dancing around the start box jostling for position. The unnerving screeching sound of sheets being eased on one of these boats really gives you a sense of how highly strung the boats are.
On the other hand if you are a landlubber and not bothered about getting out on the water, don’t worry as you can catch all the action ashore. The TV coverage and virtual graphics are all excellent. There is a big screen – Henman Hill-style – which is situated just a short walk beyond the Veles e Vents which is home to the Foredeck club which is the huge very modern white building next to the harbour.
We found ourselves watching the racing on the big screen for most of the afternoon. But you can also walk along the harbour wall and see the action of the North race course just offshore.
BTT’s – If you have a small pocket size fm radio it is worth bringing unless you speak and understand Spanish. The coverage on the big screen is all in Spanish. But you can tune into the excellent, well -informed English radio coverage which covers all the racing. I ended up buying a small radio from a shop in the old town for 5?.
– It is also worth packing a pair of binoculars if you have them.
– Boats are normally towed out from the bases starting at about 11.45. Worth watching as there is always loads of excitement and noise coming from support boats and team bases.
Mid afternoon we realised that breakfast had been some hours before so turned our attention to food and drink. Said colleague was starting to chew his fingernails and get restless. After nestling into a small restaurant near the big screen and managing to order ourselves a beer we then knew the task of getting some food might be a tad more troublesome. After much finger pointing and gesticulating we then waited for our Spanish Omelette sandwich to arrive. It seemed to be what the locals were tucking into so thought it would be a good idea. Of course we were then served up with something totally different, but rolled with the punches and got on with eating what was essentially ham egg and chips. Very good it was to!
BTT’S – One thing we did find throughout the cup village was that there is nowhere to just grab a sandwich. Good if you don’t mind sitting down for a meal as there are a number of restaurants. I would really recommend getting a picnic and sitting on the grass with your radio watching the big screen. In the old town, a 10-minute Euros 8 cab ride away, there is an amazing restored food market, Mercado Central. Definitely worth a look and a great place to get picnic supplies. It is just off the street: Plaza Del Mercado.
If you find yourself waiting around for the racing to start you can get up close for a look at the actual America’s Cup which is on display below the Veles e Vents.
A must is to have a look at the models on display of all the America’s Cup holders throughout the entire history of the event. This is situated in the building next to the Luna Rossa base. If shopping is your thing then all the teams have their own merchandise shops and official America’s Cup shops are dotted around the site. A small stuffed bear was a must for my godson.
You can also get up close to an America’s Cup boat. A number of the boats used in earlier acts are on display near the big screen.
When the racing is done we gravitated towards the Estrella Damm bar situated just near the Veles e Vents. This is a brilliant place to watch all the boats returning from racing and a great place to indulge in one or two sundowners. We may have become slightly over-excited here as we found ourselves on both nights looking at our watches at 10pm wondering if we should have just one more before heading off to find dinner. You are likely to see more than one sailing legend having a beer at the end of a hard day’s racing in the Estrella bar.
BTT’s – A beer is surprisingly cheap at 2.50? a go.
When sampling the delights of the city we found the place to head to be the old town. The cup set up is a bit isolated as it was essentially built in the commercial dock area of town. The old town is great for exploring and has a huge mixture of restaurants, bars and cafes. Luckily for us we did manage to get a bite to eat quite late which seemed like a continental thing to do. Whilst my Spanish as you have probably guessed is non-existent you always manage to get by. It has to be said the locals are very friendly, patient and helpful.
BTT’s – Getting a taxi did not prove to be a problem; it is just a matter of flagging one down from the side of the street. From the America’s Cup site to the old town takes approx 15min and costs between 8 – 10 ?.
After a couple of amazing days we found ourselves heading for the airport. We had managed to squeeze a lot into our packed weekend and as we sat waiting for our plane with the sailing enthusiasts, stag parties and those European weekend break types it did leave me wondering whether coming to the next cup will it be as easy as getting to Valencia. Maybe San Francisco, New Zealand, Europe or even Dubai – they were all names we overheard on our stay. We saw some great racing and had a brilliant time. Looking out of my office window in London, Valencia might as well be the other side of the world rather than an easy short hop to Spain.