Last August, we stopped in Valencia, Spain, on our way out to the Atlantic from the eastern Mediterranean. We wanted to see what was going on with the preparations for the 32nd America's Cup, which begins in June 2007.
Valencia is "all go" for the America's Cup. The local government is undertaking many construction and reconstruction projects, gutting graceful old buildings and leaving the "hard to replace" exterior intact, building new roads and also a new yacht harbor, Port America's Cup.
The amount of planning that has gone into these projects is staggering, but having seen the progress, we're confident Valencia will be ready for the races this summer. Naturally, there will be some glitches, but they are certainly trying to make things right.
We were told that Valencia was selected as an America's Cup venue because of the ideal sailing conditions. While we were there, an afternoon sea breeze of about 12 knots came up most days from the southeast.
As we made our approach to Valencia, six America's Cup boats came out to test and practice. They looked sinister with their dark, hunchbacked sails, but they could really fly through the water. Even if we'd gotten past their chase boats, there's no way we could have moved fast enough to catch up with these fast moving boats.
The overall shape of Port America's Cup resembles a dumbbell with inner and outer harbors connected by a canal in the middle. The syndicate bases are all located at the inner harbor, and there are two more marinas at the outer, eastern end of the canal, just inside breakwaters to the Mediterranean and the racing areas.
Along north side of the canal is America's Cup Park, which contains most of the facilities for visitors. It has a giant TV screen to watch the races live, bars, restaurants, a daily food market, a model sailboat racing pool, a children's park, and more. While there are a few observation points at the park, we doubt that the racing can be viewed from the park without looking at the TVs.
There are three entrances into the port from the city: one is close to the Superyacht Pier, and the other two are near each end of the America's Cup Park.
Several attractions ring the the Superyacht entrance, including a building housing yacht models of all 31 previous winners, and the America's Cup House, which features a dramatic multimedia display on the history of the competition. (A DVD copy of the multimedia display is available for at the store as you leave the America's Cup House for 31 euros or about $40. But beware because the English version of the video is in PAL format and may not play on your equipment.)
Transportation around the site is a key factor for visitors. Last August, there was a railroad under construction for moving people around the expansive site. Water taxis are also available. We didn't notice any place to tie dinghies, but the construction wasn't anywhere close to finished.
There are four marinas or dockage sites in Valencia:
Accommodates yachts from 30 to 80 meters (98 to 262 feet).
Superyacht Marina is right in the center of the new harbor extending out between the syndicate bases. The space is planned for 42 yachts. If money is no object-- and seeing and being seen is-- this is the place to be. It lies at the center of the action. There weren't any discos during our visit, but the several bars around there certainly have the potential for livening things up.
Accommodates yachts from 15 to 25 meters (49 to 82 feet).
Marina Norte, as the name indicates, is on the north arm of the outer harbor. It has space for 160 yachts. Unfortunately, the location is relatively remote. It's a long walk to the inner harbor, separated by a large parking lot and America's Cup Park. However, just to the north of the marina is one of the magnificent sand beaches prevalent in the region. The beach goes on for miles and seemed to be very popular.
Accommodates yachts 12 to 25 meters (39 to 82 feet).
Marina Sur is even more remote than Marina Norte. It is planned to accommodate 500 yachts, but was still under construction last August. The marina backs up to a huge container port which (fortunately) tended to quiet down at night.
This is the marina where most cruising yachts will be directed. It is far away from everything and forms the southeastern end of the harbor. Any America's Cup visitors staying here will have to depend upon the same water buses and land transport planned for Norte Marina. If walking, it is a very long walk to Port America's Cup.
Real Club Nautico de Valencia:
This marina facility is a yacht club located a few miles south of the city (about 7 euros by taxi). This upscale club has more than 1,000 slips, most of them occupied by members. It was relatively inexpensive this part of the Mediterranean, and features a well stocked chandlery, at least four restaurants, tennis courts, a very large pool, shower rooms, some repair facilities, and an outer harbor for long term dockage. Grocery and laundry facilities were not available, however. The club is not really set up for visiting yachts, but the staff was gracious and accommodating. Dockage is paid at a little building at the outer harbor.
Some Other Observations For Cruisers
As of last summer, there were no supermarkets or laundry facilities in the immediate area outside of Port America's Cup. The supermarket we found was at least two miles to the northwest of the Superyacht entry gate.
A little fluency with Spanish will go a long way to making the visit enjoyable. In our experience, only a few people had a smattering of English.
Sailing to Valencia from the east or south is an easy passage with the southeast sea breeze and the northwest land breeze, which was light. Unless your boat points unusually well, sailing from the north will probably require motorsailing, best done in the early morning hours before the wind comes up.
Sailing from Valencia is just the opposite. Northbound yachts can expect to motorsail in the morning and settle onto a broad reach in the afternoon. Eastbound travel likely necessitates motorsailing in the morning to get far enough out to avoid the afternoon sea breeze. Southbound sailors might punch into the sea breeze after the land breeze dies. Cabo de la Nao is about 50 miles south of Valencia. Unless you're moving fast, plan on stopping somewhere along the way or at the cape itself, where there is a very nice anchorage called Cala Sardinera (La 38 45.7'N, 00 00.7'E).
From our brief visit, Valencia seems to be blessed with beautiful weather and near perfect sailing conditions. The people are friendly, and it should make a good venue for the first America's Cup races in Europe.
2007 America's Cup Schedule
April 3-6: Louis Vuitton Act 13 (fleet racing)
April 18- June 12: Louis Vuitton Cup (determines the challenger)
June 23-July 7: 32nd America's Cup (match racing)
To view a photo gallery of Valencia, click here