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Tuesday July 24, 2007

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On board with the rich and famous (+ photos)

5:00AM Thursday June 28, 2007
By Paul Lewis 

Catherine Zeta Jones and husband Michael Douglas brought a touch of Hollywood royalty to the America's Cup yesterday, rubbing shoulders with real royalty - Prince Albert of Monaco - but it has been some New Zealand "royalty" who have made one of the biggest impressions at the Valencia Superyacht Marina.

Colin Giltrap's chartered yacht Benalex has been moored at the marina with guests including Gilda Kirkpatrick, Annette Presley, Marko Marinovich, alongside Jones and Douglas and Prince Albert's yachts - and he has been described as one of the movers and shakers who have helped to fill the most ambitious superyacht undertaking yet at an America's Cup.

Alice l'Anson Widdows, spokeswoman for the marina, said: "We are happy that Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones are here, of course, but it has really been people like Colin who have supported us."

In the build-up to the America's Cup proper, Giltrap's yacht was been berthed at the marina and he has brought business contacts and fellow Kiwi supporters and yacht owners met through his business interests in the United Kingdom, according to Ms Widdows.

Giltrap's networking meant somewhere between 20-30 superyachts were berthed at the VSM during the earlier stages of the America's Cup programmes.

However, while all this is high-finance, celebrity-status money, Giltrap retains a sense of the common man and the art of being a Kiwi.

When we saw him, he was squeezing into a seat on the shuttle trains that run the public around this giant port, next to two other people. "I've sold my boat," he deadpanned.

The 50-berth marina was built after Alinghi won the 2003 America's Cup and decided to cater for the superyacht market. VSM is a Spanish company - separate from America's Cup Management (ACM), the company set up by Alinghi boss Ernesto Bertarelli, to administer and operate the regatta. It is contracted to look after the superyachts and their owners.

Prince Albert talks to Lady Blake in Valencia.

Prince Albert talks to Lady Blake in Valencia.

The marina has been the focus of some criticism, with many observers pointing at Bertarelli's hungry, revenue-generating commercialisation of the America's Cup.

Some said the marina was only half full and prices were reported as reaching 1 million euro ($1.8 million) - so steep even Oracle tycoon Larry Ellison reputedly opted to anchor elsewhere.

All bosh, said Ms Widdows. Ellison had berthed the Rising Sun - the world's biggest superyacht - in the earlier stages of the America's Cup but was worried about its size in the canal down which the yachts travel for their match "so he decided to go somewhere more isolated".

The starting costs for a berth at VSM for three months was 255,000 euro with the upper limits of the pricing nowhere near the claimed 1 million euro.

And VSM is quite happy with the possibility of the Auld Mug heading back to Auckland as it would be interested in replicating the facilities there.

Full coverage of the America's Cup from nzherald.co.nz/americascup and desktoptv.co.nz

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