Alicante – Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Alicante may be best known as a popular holiday destination but that would be to misunderstand the role the town is performing over the next two years. Yes, its airport handles every year the fourth biggest passenger footfall in Spain, but a lot of that is heading even further south, to the beaches of places like Benidorm.
Alicante itself is much more of a mixed, and even traditional economy, and it will be picking up a flag of regional representation when it hosts the Volvo. Spain is divided into 17 regional governments, and Alicante is part of the Generalitat Valenciana, which also takes in Castellon.
So, after the America’s Cup focus in 2008, the top yachting event next year moves 180kms south from Valencia to a city determined to project an international flavour to the job it has been given by the state president, Francisco Camps.
The yacht club of the organizing body, Real Club de Regatas de Alicante, which was founded in 1889, has new, extensive premises which look and feel as though they have been there forever.
A fleet of six J22s, soon to be increased to eight, sits on the hard alongside a pair of I2.4Ms, used in the Paralympic sailing events. Its most famous living son is Olympic 470 gold medallist Kiko Sanchez, part of a powerful Spanish onslaught at the Barcelona Games in 1992.
On the walls inside the club are rows and rows of medals won by its rowing section and the crews practice regularly in the evenings to maintain a national superiority. On the ground floor there is much heavy breathing and grunting in the gymnasium, in the restaurant diners look out over a harbour dancing with lights, and there are dreams of developing the top, balcony floor into a Volvo Ocean Race venue.
Bringing the Volvo start to Spain for the second consecutive race is, however, much more than the result of enthusiasm by a yacht club.
Up in Valencia, which is ultimately responsible for both organisation and central funding, the rationale for the Volvo Race initiative rests on sport, tourism and commercial development.
The role which the America’s Cup has played both locally and nationally is immense and many of the sailors taking part are both ex and future Volvo Race competitors. The Volvo in Alicante also has an internal role to play, continuing that sense of pride among the local people and, as Juan Llantada from Turisme Valenciana explained: “It will help to create links with culture and with the schools, connect the citizens with the sea and help them be more involved with their traditions.”
There are 20 marinas and yacht clubs which are home to 12,000 yachts and Alicante is a weekend destination for yachtsmen – and fishermen – from Madrid.
Alicante, with its protected harbour and flat plains behind, used to be the gateway to Spain for the Romans and an export port, not least for the marble, which is quarried nearby.
Volvo Ocean Race stopover
Here you can get on a Spectator Yacht, just drop us a line:
Now it will be the start port for the new-style Volvo Ocean Race. It will offer a Mediterranean perspective to the pre-race atmosphere and the in-port race challenge and then a tricky ride down to and through the Straits of Gibraltar before launching the fleet onto its ride south down the Atlantic.
Alicante Tourism website www.alicanteturismo.com.
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