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Valencia prepares for a unique regatta



Valencia will host the America's Cup for the second time in a row

Valencia will host the America's Cup for the second time in a row

The Spanish Mediterranean port of Valencia is bracing itself to once again host the legendary America's Cup sailing race, which starts on Monday.

But the 33rd edition is likely to bear little relation to the previous event in 2007, in which Swiss syndicate Alinghi successfully defended the trophy in a breathtaking photo finish.

Three years ago, 12 teams from five continents sailing monohull boats took part in what was considered to be one of the most successful regattas in the race’s 159-year history.

In all, more than 6.4 million visitors travelled to Valencia to watch Alinghi beat Team New Zealand in a thrilling final race under the summer sun and retaining the “Auld Mug”, sailing's most prestigious prize.

But this time, after almost three years of courtroom wrangling over its format, the race will be decided in winter in a best-of-three head-to-head between Alinghi and BMW Oracle’s giant multi-hull boats. The contest may well take just three days or less, depending on the weather.

Local hotel and tourist businesses are expecting much lower visitor numbers than in 2007.

The best February in years?

"We hope to enjoy the best February in years, although in absolute terms the event will have a limited impact," Vicente Pizcueta, head of Valencia’s Hotel Association, told swissinfo.ch.

He said he expected some “spectacular peaks” on the race days next week.

“But nobody believes they can completely fill their establishments, as the races are during the week and in winter,” said Pizcueta.

The 33rd edition of the Cup is being managed by the Valencia 2007 Consortium, which comprises the Spanish government, the local government and city council.

The consortium has invested €8 million (SFr11 million), half from business sponsorship deals, to make this edition "the best America's Cup organised in such a unique way in its history", Valencia mayor Rita Barbera told journalists.

“The cup will take on a special dimension due to the size of boats,” she said, adding that it was extremely exciting for the Mediterranean city to host a sporting event combining "risk, duels and challenges".

Inauguration

VIPs will start to arrive on February 5, including the owners and sailing teams that took part in the 32nd edition.

The America’s Cup park, behind the 'Veles i Vents' race building in Valencia harbour, which was the main focal point for the 2007 edition, will open on February 6 with food stalls and a giant TV screen for the general public. An official dinner is also planned for participants, organizers and guests.

The official inauguration will take place at 1:00pm on February 7. This will be followed by a charity lunch – Spanish paella, Swiss raclette and American hamburgers – with the proceeds going to Haiti earthquake victims.

And a noisy, traditional 'mascletà' firework display, which are popular in the Valencia region, will also mark the start of the regatta.

The first race between the two teams starts at 10:06am on February 8, followed by another on February 10 and, in the event of a tie, a final clash on February 12.

"People won’t have another chance to see a show of such dimension. Either you watch it on television or you come to Valencia," she said.

Iván Turmo, swissinfo.ch (Adapted from Spanish by Simon Bradley)

America's Cup

The America's Cup is the oldest and most prestigious trophy in the sport of sailing. It is awarded to the winner of a series of regattas between the defender of the cup and the challenger.

The competition, held for the first time in England in 1851, was won by America, with a boat from the New York Yacht Club. The club held the cup for 132 years until it was beaten in 1983.

By defeating the defending champion, New Zealand, in 2003, Alinghi brought the trophy for the first time to Europe.

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