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Thursday, May 17, 2007



This spring and summer America's Cup comes to Valencia. The oldest sporting trophy in the world, in 1851 the schooner America beat the best of the British in a race around the Isle of Wight. The inscribed CUP was donated to the New York Yacht Club and bequeathed as a challenge cup, since contested 31 times. The rules of the race changed in 1970, the race name changed to the Louis Vuitton Cup, and The NYYC lost the CUP for the first time in 1983.

The Swiss Team Alinghi triumphed in New Zealand in 2003 and is thus the Defender of America's Cup. Landlocked Switzerland needed a big stretch of water to race across. Valencia on the Mediterranean was chosen as the perfect race host.

Just outside the new port development, 12 teams will race the same course at once as well as going mano a mano in match race regattas. The race has always been about technology and skill. The mylar, carbon fiber, kevlar sails often only last the race. Alinghi has 6 master sailmakers turning out 20 sails a month to supply the 4 years of regattas that culminate in Valencia between April and June 2007. Their design team at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne has been refining draft, keel, hull, mast weight, sail performance--all for the fleeting glory that may be theirs to keep. Watch for sail numbers SU164, SU175, SU191 in Valencia this spring and early summer.

In past races, teams have hidden their keels--often the secret to success--beneath modesty skirts. No such discretion on show at the port today where scantily clad sports divas and team followers sunned themselves overlooking the harbor in the City of Light. Once a favorite subject of Picasso's, today Valencia is a picture again--all tarted up to hand over the CUP and the fleeting glory that will belong to the 2007 winner.

Thursday, May 3, 2007


Riding the Cadiz Coast

I started out my adventure by choosing a helmet from the stable's extensive supply of safety headgear. The stable has a wide selection of traditional Spanish and English saddles. Both types are in perfectly serviceable condition and come in enough sizes to fit you and the horse. Spanish saddles are actually more comfortable than American western saddles. The stable also offers rides for a variety of experience levels to meet your personal needs.

After choosing my helmet, I came eye-to-eye with a short, fluffy red gelding known as Sunrise (which I'm assuming was a Peruvian Paso). My ride started out along the beach under a bright blue sky with a light breeze. Despite it being only early April, the sun was warm, and sea birds called to one another while I listened to the muffled smack of horse hooves hitting wet sand.

We spent the better part of an hour trotting and galloping over the sand in the peace and quiet of Tarifa, after which we headed for the green hills of the surrounding area. Up in the hills, the livestock of the local farmers roam free grazing. You can always hear the jingle of the bells around the necks of the cows and sheep wandering from place to place, as well as the clatter they make when the horses startle them. If you get far enough up into the hills, you can see the coast of Africa in the hazy distance.

Spanish horses also know which way is "home." When we turned back towards the stables, the horses quickened their pace and perked their ears forward. For some of them, it was the most enthusiasm they'd shown all morning. After arriving back in the stable yard, I took the saddle off Sunrise's sweaty back and gave him a good-bye scratch around his ears, taking with me memories of one of the best parts of my trip to Spain. -- Contributed by Sarah la Menor.

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