From Elba to the Americas Cup

Sun 24 Jun 2007 21:32
I am writing this from Port Americas Cup, which seems light years from our peaceful harbour in Elba which we left on 8 June after a very enjoyable 10 day stay. Apart from eating and drinking and exploring Roman and Medici, and Napoleonic sites, much of our time in Elba was spent watching the Louis Vuitton regatta being held in Valencia. We celebrated the stunning Kiwi win with a slap up seafood dinner at the best restaurant in town. the maitre d' was a delightful chap with a deep bass voice and excellent wine recommendations. The group at the next table, he told us, were third generation Italian Americans off a chartered super yacht who looked distinctly Mafia to us.
Our friends Ian and Avelyn met us in Elba and sailed with us to Corsica where we spent a lovely couple of days at Macinaggio on the east coast, and then Calvi, on the west coast. After six weeks in Italy, it seemed strange to be speaking French again, and all that would come out was 'Si' instead of 'Oui'. At Calvi we found ourselves right in the middle of a jazz festival. Like many fishing harbours in the Mediterranean, Calvi has gone out of its way to make the town a very attractive destination for yachts. and of course the prices matched the lovely conditions--134 euros for one night. Prices that horrified us at the beginning of our time in Italy this season now seem common place and spots in marinas are so scarce one almost feels grateful to get one at any price.
After two nights in Corsica we set off for Menorca. a day and a night away. We were lucky with the weather and arrived in Menorca  to find the Australian super yacht Kokomo, owned by Lang Walker, tied up to the town wharf.  Like us, Kokomo was en route to Palma Mallorca for the Millenium Cup and other super yacht races. Most super yacht owners are very stanoffish, but Lang walker and his Aussie guests were happy to indulge in a bit of banter with the plebs like us on the dock. We found Mahon, the main town of Menorca, as attractive when we had been here two years ago.
A couple of days later, having accustomed our ears to Spanish again, we did a long day sail to Mallorca. The first night we anchored in a 'pond life' sort of a place, but next day went to a beautiful little harbour (cala) surrounded by stunning white villas where gardeners were mowing expensive lawns.Here we had our first real swim of the season in clear turquoise water. As we already knew Mallorca has some glorious spots, but also some beaches with dreadful overdevelopment and hideous tourists,
mostly English and German.Our main reason for such a fast trip was to reach Palma in time for the Millenium Cup, one of the world's truly great yachting events. Words fail to do justice to the sight of 50 odd super yachts displaying their glory. Luckily for us, our friend Crit Shiels is engineer on Georgia, one of the super yachts, so we were able to get the inside story of what goes on in the world of the super rich who are the owners of the super yachts. We and Crit's mother, Heather, who is staying on board Storyteller were able to get passes into the super yacht base and to take part in the crew party while the toffs attended the Millenium Cup ball. I'll now get John to tell you a bit about the sailing, both in Palma and now here in Valencia at the Americas Cup.
The Superyacht Cup was the largest gathering of these sailing yacht ever held. The smallest were the two Australian/New Zealand super maxi's, Alfa Romeo and Wild Oates. The largest was the revolutionary 288ft Maltese Falcon owned by Tom Perkins of Netscape fame. In between there were two of the fabulous J class boats that raced for the America's Cup in Thomas Lipton's time. There were replicas of famous schooners from the 1920's and ultra modern, minimalistic Italian designed Wallys.
Then there were beautiful and luxurious yachts that sailed surprising well. Many of them were built in New Zealand. To see this fleet racing in perfect conditions in Palma bay was a thrilling experience.
Talking about yacht racing, we are now berthed at the brilliant facility that has been built at Valencia to host the America's Cup. It is claimed to be the largest sporting venue (in acreage terms) ever built. It is also by far and away the most expensive marina I have ever heard of. I could never admit what the berthing fees are costing us for the minimum stay of 18 days. However now that the pain of paying for the berth has faded it is wonderful to be here. Particularly, today as Team New Zealand came from behind to beat the title holder in one of the most exciting yacht races I have ever seen. We are hoping the Kiwis can recover the cup they lost four years ago. They have made a good start but it will not be easy for them to win 4 of the remaining 7 races. With thousands of Kiwis here to cheer their team on, the atmosphere when the boats leave the harbour to go to the race course is electric. This is a huge international sporting event and it is a shame that the Australian media who became so excited when Australia won the event no longer bother to report on it. The skipper of the Prada sponsored Italian semi finalist is an Australian and a national hero in Italy.
Fortunately tomorrow is a lay day so we can go to the old town and see the sights