The announcement, made official last Monday, of the location of the bases of the teams that will compete in the 37th America’s Cup in 2024 marks the start of the event’s countdown.
Damià Calvet (Vilanova i la Geltrú, 1968), president of the Port of Barcelona, assures that, “We know the demands of this competition and we respond to it with rigor and professionalism. That is how we have understood it and we are doing a very serious job to be able to achieve the best America’s Cup in history” .
With an extensive professional career, both in the public and private spheres, and in politics for almost 30 years, highlighting his time as Minister of Territory and Sustainability of the Government of Catalonia 2018-2021) when the laws of ports, protection and planning were approved of the coastline.
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“They informed us that they are moving and that Emirates Team New Zealand still had not decided on the venue and had to do it quickly. They explained to me that they have contacted the institutions to deal with the financial amounts that should be contributed and that, more or less, everyone saw it well”, says the president.
“They wanted to know if the Port of Barcelona had the capacity and the desire to present a proposal. The first thing we did was make sure that all of this was serious. We called the Generalitat, the State, the Barcelona City Council, etc. and we made some checks , asking America’s Cup Events Ltd., organizer of the event, to make us an expression of interest to make sure that they were also interested”.
“When we had all that we got to work. The Port of Barcelona has a very robust and powerful management structure, which knows its own facilities very well, we have a very active operation, both in cargo, cruises, and nautical. So we we asked for all the requirements they asked for”.
Those requirements initially were bases for five teams, now there will be six, the need for land surface, water services, electricity, fiber, mooring area, that the exit from the port be close to the regatta field, the ‘village’ and the ‘ hospitality’.
“Receiving them was very stressful because they asked us for many requirements and we had little time to present the candidacy, since the election would be in March and we had candidacies like Cork, Jeddah or Malaga working on them for a long time” concrete.
The first project for the location of the bases that was proposed was good, but very unattractive, since it was to add all the bases in the Adosado Port, behind where the Cruise terminals are located and it was difficult for the public to get there.
“Although that possibility remained, we decided to continue working secretly on another option. Not even the bid partners knew what we were going to do, because we didn’t know if it would be possible and we didn’t want to create expectations” Calvet points out.
The decision was to work internally at Port Vell because we had the impression that it was the city that made itself available to us and if it were achieved it would be something very attractive, although it would be a difficult task.
There were spaces managed by the port itself and spaces that, by obligation, had to enter into concessions that are doing their business here and had to negotiate with them, and that was a very stressful job. “Initially we set up five bases in a space as limited as Port Vell and we managed to complete the proposal the day before the designation and nobody knew about it.”
He goes on to explain that “The day the delegation from the Emirates Team New Zealand and America’s Cup Event Ltd. -its commercial and organizational arm- arrived in Barcelona and all the parties involved met, we presented them with the proposal for the Attached Dock, but also the new one for Port Vell that no one knew. Everyone was surprised and we already saw that it was a winning proposal when we went out for a tour of Port Vell with Grant Dalton, General Director of ETNZ and ACE, and we showed him the future location of each base and seeing his face We had no doubt that the venue was going to be Barcelona”.
Once it was decided, we had to start thinking about the essentials of the definitive location of each base. “That’s when we were told that there would be a sixth team. Both for me and for José Alberto Carbonell, General Director of the Port of Barcelona, and for David Pino, Head of Planning and Operations at the Port, the two key men in this project and to those I want to highlight, it was an added motivation”.
From there, there were two fundamental tasks: the definition of the bases so that each team could have its place and the declaration of the America’s Cup as an Event of Exceptional Public Interest that corresponds to the State.
One of the ‘jewels’ of this Copa America will be the gigantic ‘village’ of the Cup, which will extend from end to end of Moll de la Fusta, with an area of 25,000 to 30,000 square meters “It will be very big because ACE wants it to be a very popular event, and that both the inhabitants of Barcelona and the visitors are part of the experience and the key to making it popular is that it be very accessible and this is also a clear will of ours” .
The International Press Center will be located in the current moll de Sant Bertrán sheds. The four kilometers of coastline that go from the Port Olímpic to Marina Vela, will be a privileged area, also open and accessible for fans to watch the competition, since the regatta field will be very close to the Barcelona seafront and in that area.
Regarding the location already known as the base of the British ‘INEOS’ team in the area of the current IMAX, Calvet has revealed that “The base will go where the car park is now. We’ll see if we use the IMAX building or not for the Cup. What will have to be demolished is the Cinesa building, which was already planned, in the Maremagnum area, next to the Aquarium , because there goes another base”.
The Emirates Team New Zealand, which has been, as the defending champion, the first to choose its base, has done so in the area where the current Balearia terminal is located, behind the World Trade Center. In principle, that area, the Barcelona Nord Pier, was not going to host any team, but when a sixth base was proposed, it was seen that it was the only space available to locate it.
“Thus, we began to work with the companies that operate there, basically Balearia in the Drassanes terminal and an operation that we had already planned since 2018 was accelerated with an agreement with the Barcelona City Council that indicates that the entire Attached Dock would be dedicated to passengers. Now we have five cruise terminals, we will have seven, plus the Balearia terminal.”
To locate the new base, all Balearia’s ferry activity will be moved to a provisional area of the Attached Dock, in a really complicated operation.
Calvet comments that, “We must not forget that Team New Zealand intends to be the local team in Barcelona and that is why the choice of its base in the closest area and with the most connection to the city has been a priority”.
The bases will all have a similar area of 3,500 to 4,500 square meters. The port of Barcelona will build the concrete foundations for the bases and will provide them with services such as electricity, water, fiber optics, sewerage and a berthing line with a depth greater than 6 meters.
The teams have an implementation cost for their base. In each base it is calculated because there is an income, regulated by contract, which is for the Port and another income that must go to compensate the concessionaire where the base is located, since he would be developing activity. In the end, the implementation conditions will be the same for all the teams, that is, it will be an occupation rate.
“By contract we have a delivery deadline for the bases in December 2023, but on a daily basis we will be in contact with ACE, which is the one who now has a direct relationship with the teams, to develop and advance work. There is only one base that does not It requires more than that of Cinesa Maremagnum because the building has to be demolished and it is not a small work. We will supervise the demolition but who will do it is the Maremagnum concessionaire, which has that obligation ” Calvet continues.
The theme of Superyachts is another strong point of the America’s Cup. In the 2004-2007 period that the competition lasted in Valencia, 187 megayachts visited the city for this reason. More than a hundred are expected in Barcelona, especially in 2023 and 2024, and the Port Vell Marina will be the main mooring point. “But others such as Marina Vela or other spaces that we can enable are not ruled out.”
In addition to the fact that the first Women’s America’s Cup will be held in Barcelona, it will also be the first time in history that the teams’ support boats will use hydrogen propulsion. “We are prepared for this challenge because the Port of Barcelona is already a world benchmark for maritime sustainability. We were the first port to make massive use of liquefied natural gas, which is a transition fuel, not exactly ‘green’.”
“This great commitment to a fuel that pollutes less and emits fewer greenhouse gases has had very good results. We have storage, supply of liquefied natural gas to ships, which has caused the best ships in the fleet to come to Barcelona We have been developing this commitment to sustainability for years.”
“We are not staying here, we are undergoing an energy transition, electrifying docks and we want to be an energy ‘hub’ strictly for maritime traffic; we must be prepared to produce, store and distribute hydrogen, methanol, ammonia or other fuels that may arise and we are sure that We are prepared for the needs of the Copa América and it will accelerate our goals”.
Negotiations with America’s Cup Event Ltd. have not been difficult, but he acknowledges that, “They are very demanding because it is a competition with a very particular dynamic and it is very long and this is one of the most valuable elements we have. It is not a Formula One or MotoGP weekend, it is many weeks and it is a competition very demanding and ACE is too.
“For us, the legacy of the America’s Cup is very important; that is, what we can do when it ends in October 2024, because we have to continue promoting Barcelona as the nautical capital and as the capital of sailing. An event of this magnitude puts Barcelona and the country at the world epicenter of sports and sailing for a long time and this is priceless” he concludes.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism