2007 CupInfo: Potential Locations for the Defenseï»¿
at Lisbon, A CupInfo
Our Man in Portugal checks in!
CupInfo interviewed our agent, code-name "Imprimis", about his recent reconnaissance trip to the potential 2007 America's Cup host cities of Lisbon and Cascais in Portugal. First, his report:
Imprimis: From the AC consumers point of view, the other 3 prospects will need to be pretty damn good to beat Cascais/Lisbon as the host. If there is downside to this place as an AC venue then we didn't see it.
If contemplating staying in Cascais itself, though, then start saving now. The town's usual description as a weekend escape for Lisbon's well heeled is supported by the price tags in its boutiques and the number of stars on its hotel signs. I would hate to think of the what the costs would be if the AC circus comes to town. However, the scope for other accommodation is wide open given the train line running through the coastal suburbs between Cascais and Lisbon. We stayed in central Lisbon and found that the train trip only takes 35 minutes, driving in urban Portugal can be a little traumatic so we didn't bother.
The projected 3 race areas are spread right across the larger bay which leads to the Tagus river on which Lisbon sits. This makes it quite viable for spectator boat access to the race areas from Lisbon itself. The Lisbon waterfront has a large dock infrastructure and well established ferry terminals that I am sure the tour operators will make good use of. A bonus to competitors and spectators alike will be that much, if not all, of the race areas will be in line of sight of Cascais and the marina.
The Cascais waterfront is charming. If you are easily seduced by the thought of sipping a cold beer in an open bar looking down on fishing boats bobbing at their moorings in a cliff fringed bay, then this is the place for you. Much of Portugal deserves the same tag.
Cascais marina wraps around a steep rocky point on top of which is perched a walled military post. As a result, access to the marina and its extensive shopping-restaurant-bar complex is from a single road at one end and a walkway at the other. Access can be easily restricted if the (hinted at) intent is to charge admission to whichever venue is chosen. It would be a shame if this comes about as the openness of Auckland's Viaduct Basin was a real winner. The marina itself houses the usual collection of nondescript white Tupperware.
There certainly seems to be sufficient space available for any sheds and Travelifts that the teams might require. It strikes me that these are the only things that need to be added as the existing infrastructure constitutes a ready made "village". On the day that we walked through, the maxi yacht Bols was parked in one of the outermost arms of the marina , which might be a clue that a little dredging will be in order if the cup boats are to access the inner areas.
As for Clube Naval De Cascais, there was little to see since much of their building was recently demolished prior to redevelopment. What remained is the core of the clubhouse at the edge of the hardstand area at the inner side of the marina. Little was happening on the weekday afternoon we were there, just a few school kids drifting around in their aluminum Opti's. For dinghy sailors and those with bigger boats on the hardstand the spot is ideal as they launch straight into deep water protected from any Atlantic swells by the marina and its breakwater. None of that icky sand stuff to mess up the boat and jam centerboards.
Unfortunately we only had a mere 10 days in Portugal including the one slim afternoon in Cascais. We flew out last Friday feeling that we had short-changed ourselves. We had no doubts that we would be going back.
CupInfo: Thanks you, Imprimis, for bringing us your thoughtful view of the Lisbon and Cascais area. It makes me want to visit the region regardless the outcome of venue decision, confirming something I had suspected about the cities. In relation to possible selection as host city, isn’t it significant that there is substantial existing harbor infrastructure? Most of the other sites have proposed making a large investment in breakwaters and piers, far beyond simple dredging.
Imprimis: The shopping list to get the Cascais site up and running seems short: some big tall sheds, barbwire to separate them, travelifts and their runways.
CI: And the rich-and-famous could stay in Cascais while the rest of us could mass-transit from Lisbon. That seems right enough.
Imprimis: Distances involved are short and Lisbon's public transport is excellent: quick, cheap, safe and clean. Cascais could be considered an outer suburb of Lisbon as there is development for the 25km or so between them. Cascais and Lisbon would be at the upper end of the money scale but the suburbs in between I'm sure would offer something more reasonable.
CI: I can imagine the race boats slipping into the Cascais marina just before and after racing. That way the rock stars need not endure long tows while support teams ferry the boats from the Lisbon bases. Counted against Cascais is the lack of a vantage point for onshore spectators, but per your impression that's not a problem? Blowing the froth off seaside brews sounds good to this CupFan.
Imprimis: Has any past cup venue really offered good vantage points for shore-based spectators? Auckland's northern suburbs didn't, nor did San Diego or Newport from what I’ve been told. The basic necessity of sailing in clean air dictates that events will be run some distance offshore limiting the shore-based viewing possibilities. This is further compounded by the extent of the race areas that will be used during trials...the distances are great. The cliffs around Naples are taller than those at Cascais but both would require use of a pretty good telescope! I can not see any venue offering ringside seating.
CI: Your story contradicts some perceptions recently posted about Naples. I've heard recent comment from a sailor who related that the Naples waterfront was pretty but in his perception the city was dirty and crowded. But somebody might say that about almost any big city, right?
Imprimis: I haven't been in Naples for almost 15 years but I remember that the spectacular view from the cliffs as we were driving out...sparkling blue water, mega-yachts parked in coves. Best fun we had there was standing on the lip of the crater of Mt Vesuvius and throwing rocks in to try and provoke another Pompeii event!
CI: It's probably good to remember that these are large cities we are talking about. Expense sounds the only drawback, though that fact would hold true for all of the potential sites.
Imprimis: Expensive? I agree that all sites have that potential downside. However, we came away from Portugal knowing that we could have done the trip a whole lot cheaper if we had chosen to. The use of self-catering accommodation in the right areas and the easy access to quality cheap produce, including the vinho, means living almost as cheaply as the locals do.
Portugal hosted the World Expo a couple of years ago and next year hosts the World Cup in soccer, so when the time comes it will have the track record to put on an event like the America's Cup. It does not appear to have been a problem for them to put the infrastructure in place for those events. The soccer stadiums are now well underway. A "small" event like the America's Cup should be no drama. Portugal's proud and very visible maritime heritage will provide a solid cultural support for the event.
CI: Last, as stipulated in advance your trip please forward bar-bill copies to CupInfo.com.
Imprimis: Compensation not required. The purser has started to reconcile the incoming credit card statements with her log and has concluded that expenditure was within the budget she had secretly set for the trip. This discovery led to cries of "what went wrong?...this is a dangerous precedent!" and "why didn't we eat/drink more/better".
Again, many thanks “Imprimis”!
Photographs on this page copyright Emilie McCartney Waddell, used with permission.
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