Before Alinghi Defends the Cup, Tourist Defends His Taxi

Ernesto Bertarelli isn't the only one defending his own in Valencia. "A Voice From Valencia" from our May 18, 2007, /AC eNewsletter/

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Ivo Rovira/ Alinghi

My wife and I arrived in Valencia the day before the first race of the semifinals of the Louis Vuitton Cup. We stayed at the Abba Acteon Hotel, one of several new hotels built to accommodate visitors to the 32nd America's Cup. The hotel was clean, reasonably priced, and located in a residential area about a mile from America's Cup Harbor. After a shower and a nap, we took a taxi to Casa Ripoll, a restaurant we'd read about in a past issue of Saveur magazine. The place turned out to be a bit farther down the beach than we had thought, but the paella was great, the wine list, impressive, and the view of the beach and the sea, wonderful. Not all restaurants in Valencia are open on Sunday night, so it's a good idea to call ahead. And as with the rest of Spain, don't plan on eating before 9:00 p.m. At noon the next day, we arrived at the port in time to view the racing aboard China Team's spectator boat. (The syndicates are required to operate their spectator boats even after they've been eliminated.) On the upper level of the China Team base, which is open to the public, is a nice bar with comfortable seating and flat screen TVs on which to catch the racing if you choose to stay ashore. On the ground level is the America's Cup Cafe, a great place to watch the racing while grabbing a late lunch. From now through the end of the America's Cup, races start a 3 p.m. The parade out to the racecourse made for some classic people and boat watching. All kinds of vessels were heading out to the course, and several police boats lined the harbor entrance. We were lucky to be on a catamaran, which helped soften the ride out through the myriad of wakes. A gusty northwest breeze caused a few media types aboard to question whether the racing would take place, but the breeze settled down in the afternoon.We took position relatively close to the committee boat for the first race between BMW Oracle Racing and Luna Rossa Challenge. At times, having a good set of binoculars will help you can see some detail on the boats; at other times, the racers bring the action right up close. After entering the starting box, BMW Oracle Racing skipper Chris Dickson took off into the spectator fleet and led Luna Rossa right around the boat we were on. We enjoyed great views of both boats, and there was cheering for both teams from boats all around us.The next day, we decided to view the races from shore. We watched the boats pass through the America's Cup Canal, grabbed some lunch at one of the many cafes and restaurants in the port, and then watched the race with about 300 spectators on the big screen. The commentary was in Spanish, so it was a little hard to follow, but the images were great and the crowd was enthusiastic. There some big cheers for Desafio Español when it crossed the line, even though the Spanish team was well behind Emirates Team New Zealand.That evening, we had a great dinner at a traditional tapas restaurant in the old city, which is a bit more of what you would expect out of a European city. The Plaza Central has wonderful views, some intriguing buildings, and a very reliable taxi stand. If you're looking for something to do that doesn't involved sailboat racing, check out the Valencia Oceanic Center. It's more like a zoo for fish than a traditional aquarium. Spread out on a large, park-like campus are different fish from around the world, displayed in a creative ways for lovers of the sea to find out what they are all about. You can even walk through underground/underwater tunnels as sharks and tropical fish swim all around. Later, we joined a group from Sailing World for a get-together at the Barcelo Hotel. Peter "Luigi" Reggio, the Principal Race Officer for America's Cup Management, joined us for tapas and drinks and kept everyone entranced with his honest, unedited commentary on the racing so far. By the third day, we had figured out that best way to the port was the public buses (1.15 Euros per ride). We had arranged for a private charter, through our China Team friends from Monday, on a Fountaine Pajot Cumberland 44 Power Cat with eight other Americans. We also took advantage of an invitation to stop by the BMW Oracle Racing base, where we took an inside look at of one of the best funded teams in town. Watching the racing aboard the Fountaine Pajot was great-we were able to get from the starting line to the windward mark in time to see the roundings. If you want a great view of the racing, contact the Team China folks, Pierre-Louis Grobety. You can pay less, but you won't get any closer.The surprise of the day was Desafio Espanol. The Spaniards got the Kiwis into a difficult spot before the start, caused them to pick up a penalty, then capitalized by winning the start and leading around the course. The spectator fleet went nuts when the Spanish team won its first race of the semifinals. The official press conference was full of compliments for Desafio Espanol by ETNZ's Dean Barker, backpedaling by BMW Oracle Racing, and bravado from Luna Rossa.The biggest challenge in Valencia is not the America's Cup; it's finding a taxi after dinner. We witnessed a near revolt at one otherwise subdued hotel-which is also the home of the Swiss syndicate, Alinghi-when the desk clerk refused to call a taxi for people who where not guests of the hotel. Fortunately for us, the clerk recognized my Swiss heritage and called us a taxi. After a bit of a wait, and some careful defense of our ride from would-be cab snatchers, we caught a taxi back to our hotel.Port America's Cup was great. The restaurants, the big screen, and the bases all made for a fantastic three days. No matter how you see the races, or how you hail your cab, it's definitely worth the trip to Valencia to witness the 32nd America's Cup.