It was quite a big risk for Cascais to host the first America’s Cup World Series. While the hotel room nights would have been up thanks to an army of TV production personnel, the TV shots couldn’t seem to find many shots of fans who had made the trip to watch.
While we wait for the economic impact figures for Portugal, attention shifts to the small, but historically significant sailing town of Plymouth in the UK.
There is no doubt that Plymouth can stage great sailing events – both for participants and spectators. The start of the Artemis Transat in 2008 received wide acclaim and hundreds of boats are beginning to arrive back at the historic Barbican area as they finish the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race.
On the face of it, Plymouth provides a better viewing experience for the land-based spectator than Cascais does. Plymouth is a card carrying member of the ‘natural amphitheater PR club’, with high cliffs that look out over an enclosed race-area, but the America’s Cup World Series might not have enough local interest to encourage fans along the coast or in London to make the trip.
Plymouth officials admit that if Ben Ainslie had been on the helm of an AC45 flying a British flag, the crowds would be bigger. They can’t say how much bigger, but without a home-team, the event is (as one local put it) – “Just a bunch of black boats”. Perhaps Spanish America’s Cup fans will get the ferry from Santander to watch Green Comm Racing.
Organisers haven’t just hyped the event to spectators, it’s pushing a totally unrealistic expectation to local businesses. One piece of literature sent to local businesses says:
“We are expecting 500,000 visitors from across the UK and Europe… They could bring £10 Million or more into the city – money they could be spending with you.”
The deal to host the America’s Cup World Series is currently a one-off. Nevertheless, Plymouth hopes that by hosting the teams and their AC45s in Millbay, the city can regenerate a new part of the city. The deal is a good one for real-estate investors near the ferry terminal.
Sir Michael Lyons, Chairman of Millbay’s lead developer, English Cities Fund, said:
“Millbay’s restored harbour and historic links with the USA make it the perfect venue for the Race Village. The event will provide a real taste of the future for this exciting waterside regeneration area.”
There is a lot of work to do. A disused piece of concrete dock area has to be transformed into a race village worthy of a global sports event in a few weeks and hotel staff have to get their head around the fact that the Barbican is not where the action is.
Plymouth is a city of huge contrasts. Away from the trendy bars and luxury waterfront apartments, this is ‘little Britain’ where people would recognize PUMA, but maybe not Louis Vuitton. Many of the larger hotels are housed in grim concrete blocks, but quaint guest-houses and B&B accommodation are plentiful if not 5 star.
Plymouth is hoping that a little bit of the glamour of the America’s Cup (World Series) brand will rub off on they city. They want people travelling down the motorway to places further south and west take a left and pop in and spend a bit of money. According to the leaflets, the eyes of the world will be focused on the city:
Estimated TV audiences from around the world of 150 million with Sky TV and Channel 4 coverage.