Just 5 Days to the America’s Cup Showdown in Spain
VALENCIA WINS, NO MATTER WHO SAILS FASTEST
The America’s Cup duel opens next Monday, Feb. 8, over a 20-mile Mediterranean course off Valencia and the Costa del Azahar.
Tens of thousands are expected to cheer on Alinghi 5, the Swiss defender from Geneva. Just as many more may wave flags for the American challenger, USA, from San Francisco. Adding to the suspense is the fact that each boat is of a size and speed never before seen in the 159 years of America’s Cup competition.
“This America’s Cup, the experts say, will be the fastest and the most exciting in history,” said Javier Piñanes, director of the Tourist Office of Spain in New York. “And it’s another opportunity to experience Valencia, which rocketed as a destination for Americans when it hosted the America’s Cup in 2007 with such great success.”
A Duel Between the Swiftest Boats Ever
The Cup will be settled in no more than three days of racing, with the remaining matches scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 10, and Friday, Feb. 12 (the latter if necessary in the best-of-three format).
That’s in sharp contrast to the previous America’s Cup, in which the Alinghi team defended against Emirates Team New Zealand, the winner of a 2½-month long series of preliminary matches involving 11 boats.
There’s more that’s different: The duel will re-introduce multi-hull boats to America’s Cup competition. The Alinghi 5 is a giant, double-hulled catamaran; the USA (sailed by the BMW Oracle team) is triple-hulled, a trimaran. While boat lengths are similar to those of the 2007 single hulls, this year’s multi-hulls measure 90 feet at the beam (compared to 13½ feet in 2007), mount masts of as much as 185 feet (compared to 105 feet in 2007) and can skim across the water at up to twice the speed of the wind.
Valencia to Star on TV and Web
For visitors, it all begins Sunday, Feb. 7, at Valencia’s Marina Juan Carlos 1, with an opening party for thousands, including music and fireworks. A giant paella (Valencians assert that their paella is Spain’s best because their rice is the best) will be served to raise funds to help earthquake survivors in Haiti.
When the competition begins the next day, visitors will be able to cheer the boats as they leave the marina and to follow the action on a giant screen. For more, www.TurisValencia.es and www.ComunitatValenciana.com, respectively.
More than 2 billion people worldwide will be able to see the races live on television or online at www.AmericasCup.com. They’ll also get an eyeful of Spain’s third city, made famous by El Cid, the 11th-century crusader; by the huge Fallas bonfires of the Fiesta de San José in March; and by Santiago Calatrava, native son and super-architect of Valencia’s futuristic City of Arts & Sciences.
The billionaire leaders of the two teams—Ernesto Bertarelli of Alinghi and Larry Ellison of BMW Oracle—battled for months in a New York courtroom over rules, other possible challengers and even the venue. BMW Oracle’s latest complaint, that Alinghi 5’s sails are illegal because they were not manufactured in Switzerland, will be reviewed only after the races.
The boats are assembled and the crews have been practicing feverishly to make the most of the Costa del Azahar’s tricky winter breezes. The Cup itself arrived in Valencia Friday.
The Once and Future City
Valencia’s harbor will also be the scene of a second major racing event in August: The Formula 1 Telefónica Grand Prix of Europe auto competition, held over three days.
Valencia was founded and named by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. The Gothic cathedral was begun in the 13th century on the site of a Roman temple in the ancient Barrio del Carmen. The medieval Silk Exchange is another landmark.
“Today, Valencia and all of Spain are particularly proud of the architectural creations of Santiago Calatrava,” said Mr. Pinanes. “These range from the Hemisfèric planetarium to the Queen Sofia Palace of Arts opera house. They are tremendous attractions for visitors.” The buildings and reflecting pools of the City of Arts and Sciences stand amid the wide, green park created by the city along the filled-in bed of the diverted Rio Turia.
How to Get There Now
Iberia flies to Valencia via Madrid from Boston, New York (JFK), Miami and Chicago, with Washington, DC, service to begin March 28. Delta will resume peak-season nonstop JFK-to-Valencia service on May 28.
The Valencia Tourist Card is good for unlimited public transportation, and for discounts in museums and many shops. A three-day card costs less than $30.