09 February 2010

Valencia Progress Report Day 1

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What do tax attorneys, NASCAR, and stunt planes have to do with each other?

The answer is, of course, the America's Cup.

It's been a long two days since Somers and I arrived in Valencia, and despite the lack of racing it's been eventful nonetheless.

We woke up at 5am on Monday to watch the BMW/Oracle boat leave the dock, and participate in a bit of a pump-up ceremony. Loud rock music, floodlights, and air-horns all at 6.30 in the morning: bra bra brap braaaaaaaaaaa...... I am not sure the boat's crew appreciated all the excitement as they might have wished to build up to their 10am start more slowly. But the 'Family and Friends' spectators enjoyed it, as long as they didn't get an airhorn in the ear.

From there we bused back to the base in the AC harbour, and then another short bus ride to get on the fast ferry that served as the spectator boat at around 8.30am. However, due to the lack of wind and the delayed start, we sat at the dock until around 9.30. We finally left and went about 20 miles out to the start line, where Alinghi and BMW/Oracle were drifting around. The oat driver did a good job of maneuvering the ferry so everyone got a chance to view the boats up close from either side, as there wasn't a lot of external deck. We even got a 'drift by' from Oracle, so everyone was whipping out their cameras. And of course, Larry's big boat was out there along with a flotilla of very wicked looking RIBs tooling around full of very fashionably dressed crew and support. Apparently this season the fashionable AC crew are wearing all white. Not my first choice in foul weather gear colour, but I guess they can just get new kit if it gets dirty.

At 2pm racing was cancelled for the day and we all raced back to the dock. By this point Somers and I had already been getting familiar with the Coronas, and back at the base there was more open bar to be had, including Mojitos. Many of them. I met a few interesting people, including the team's tax attorney. Apparently he was instrumental in helping them save a lot of money on sales tax when they had their boat built in the US. I also met a NASCAR technician -- he knows nothing about sailing, but was brought in to build the wiring harnesses. I asked him what the difference between NASCAR and the boat was, he said nothing... it's all aviation technology brought to other applications.

After a few more mojitos, it was off for tapas down the street. The bar was empty except for two Kiwi gentleman. We eventually started talking with then and it turns out they were Sir Michael Fay, and his partner from the 1980s Kiwi 'big boat' campaign against Dennis Conner's cat. So we had quite an interesting conversation with him -- he was the financier and motivation behind that campaign, I enjoyed his perspective. He referred to himself as a farmer... Many people knock the America's cup since it is so different from normal sailing, wiht all the drama, legal hijinks, loads of money, and the chase for technology. But as Fay said, if you want a regatta, go to a regatta... this is the America's Cup, and is its own beast. Remember that it predates the modern organization of sailboat races by many years.

Finally off to another tapas bar, where we crashed a birthday party ('Pimps and Hos') full of AC people and hangers-on. And lots of good food! They had a vat of sangria, and a 1-metre diameter paella dish that sits on its own propane-powered burner. Wicked good food, wicked good drink.

And stunt planes? That's some guy I met at the last bar, he comes from stunt planes and worked on the film that covers the wing. He was pretty passionate about it. Or maybe just drunk....?

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