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I ordered my Catalina 34, Java, Sail number 1599 on 27th September 2001, when I also embarked upon my Royal Yachting Association Yachtmaster course. As regular readers of Mainsheet will recall, an article of my experiences on Rally Portugal in 2002 and beyond to Gibraltar was printed in the February 2003 (Volume 21, No. 1). As recorded in the PS to the article, I was planning to sail further into the Mediterranean to Alicante, which I did in September 2002.

I was based in the marina in Alicante for 12 months. I have to say that the onshore facilities at Alicante are probably some of the best I have experienced within the Mediterranean. From the Alicante base, I often explored the island of Tabarca and ventured north to the lovely villages of Altea and Moraira. During the summer of 2003 we spent a lot of time cruising around Ibiza and its sister island Formentera. One of the first things I realized as the summer of 2003 arrived in Alicante, was that I needed to acquire a bimini, as the temperatures were somewhat hotter than I had experienced in Portugal and particularly the UK. My first reaction was, of course, to see whether I could procure a locally manufactured bimini. This proved something of a challenge, because the earliest I could get any local supplier to give me a quotation was six weeks. In the end, the most cost effective option, even having enquired of UK suppliers, was for me to order a bimini from the Canvas Store in the USA and have it flown via the UK to Alicante, where we fitted it whilst we were sailing along!

By the time late September 2003 arrived, I had exhausted most of the sailing options out of Alicante and was getting bored. Also rather annoying on my short weekend stays, were the two nightclubs located either side of the marina, which opened at 2 am and didn’t finish until 10 am, thereby disturbing the restful weekend. So in late September 2003, along with Liz, my swimming instructress mentioned in the previous article, Paul and David, my regular crew of some 13 years, set forth from Alicante. Sailing towards Barcelona, we stopped at Moraira, Gandia, Valencia, Las Fuentes, L’Ampolla and Torredembarra.

Our arrival at Port Vell in Barcelona was something never to be forgotten! As we arrived, the heavens opened up and the rain was as heavy as I have ever experienced. You literally could not see where you were going. Entering through the new entrance, which had only been open three months, we had to circle around in the outer harbour, listening to the strains of “Barcelona” by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé, which was blaring out on one of the largetourist Catamarans operating cruise trips along the Spanish coast. The weather was so bad that even the high speed ferry from Menorca had to be guided in by a pilot boat, whereas normally it would make its own unassisted entrance into the harbour!

Barcelona is a wonderful city, combining all the attributes of an historic yet modern city, with the benefits of a coastal town and a wonderful climate. From a sailing point of view, it is virtually possible to sail all year round (although some of the locals might not agree). In the summer there is always the wonderful sea breeze which kicks in at 1 pm. In the winter, with the possible exception of January and February, it was possible to sail in shorts and shirt sleeves, as we have done on many occasions.

In 2004 and 2005, my friends and I enjoyed very pleasant sails to Port Addaya on the island of Menorca. Our first trip took longer than we expected and involved an unplanned arrival at Ciutadella at 2 am in the morning, where friends had been waiting ashore from 9 pm! In 2005, however, we were able to sail the whole way from Barcelona to Port Addaya with only one tack, which took us straight into the ancient Roman Harbour.

The year 2006 was a quiet time for sailing in Barcelona, primarily because my career had taken me to join the United Kingdom’s Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) as its Property Director. One of the benefits of doing this was that my major task was to negotiate the property terms and conditions for upgrading works to the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA), and for setting the terms for Dean Reddyhoff to develop the newest commercial marina in the UK at Portland alongside the Academy. These two venues will become one venue for the purposes of the 2012 sailing events in the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In March 2007, I took the opportunity to retrace some of my steps in Java south to Valencia, where a new marina had been constructed for the 32nd America’s Cup. Java was based there for six months. During this time, we experienced some delightful sailing and were able to witness many of the rounds of the America’s Cup, and gain an understanding of how one organizes professional sailing events. I also now understand how to cook many varieties of paella!

Being based in Valencia at the end of the summer also provided an opportunity to sail once again to Santa Eulalia in Ibiza, which I had first visited in 1999. The journey, as usual, took longer than we had planned, but it was pleasing to find two pizzas waiting for us on the pontoon, from some Welsh friends who had arrived on the island as an advance party. Although the pizzas were stone cold, we were so famished, that at 1 am in the morning it didn’t really matter.

At the end of the week in Ibiza, a group of us sailed to Andraix on Mallorca and then on to Soller on the North West coast of Mallorca, before returning to Barcelona. If anybody has an opportunity to go into Port Soller, I would very much encourage them to do so. After the harbour in Mahon on Menorca, it is probably one of the best natural harbours in the Mediterranean, being almost circular in form.

Realizing that my sailing opportunities might become slightly limited because of work commitments with the ODA, on a very cold early March Monday morning in 2009, Java was lifted out of the water at Barcelona. On Tuesday, she was put on a transporter which had arrived from England, taken back via the Santander ferry to Hamble in the UK, and was put together once again by the same person who had first assembled her in 2001/02. In April 2009 David, Neil, Peter and myself sailed JAVA via Poole to the new Dean and Reddyhoff Marina in Portland, which had been opened just a few days before. In 2010 we sailed to Northern France and the Channel Islands with the Royal Yachting Association.

Locating Java at Portland has proven to be a wise decision. Not only is there virtually always wind in Weymouth Bay (even when it is sometimes foggy), one has been able to witness two Sail for Gold Regattas, with 750 (in 2010), and over 1,000 (in 2011) International Competitors from around the world participating. The first two weeks in August 2011 saw the first official test event for the 2012 Olympic Games, which was a great success, showing the right choice was made for the Olympic Sailing venue.

Obviously, I am looking forward to the sailing in the 2012 Olympic Games and beyond that to the 2013 America’s Cup in San Francisco. Although I have aspirations to sail across the Atlantic via the ARC Rally, this will have to wait until I have completed my role at the Olympic Delivery Authority. In any event, Java will obviously not be able to be present at the America’s Cup in 2013. I am hopeful, however, of finding my way there and perhaps securing a berth to get close to some of the action.

During my ten years’ ownership of Java, nothing really major has gone wrong. I have had to replace both batteries, a broken fan belt, a burnt-out starter motor and had the steering wheel re-welded. All of which were a painful problem at the time, but, upon reflection, have not really been the end of the world.

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Ralph LuckRalph Luck is the Director of Property for the UK’s Olympic Delivery Authority, responsible for all property matters affecting the Authority. In particular, his key responsibilities include transactions with Westfield and LCR at Stratford City, the sale of the Olympic Village and the delivery of the Olympic Sailing venue at Portland, United Kingdom.

Ralph is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, holds a diploma in Management Studies and is a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute. He was the Chairman of the British Urban Regeneration Association from 2004-2007 having been a director for 13 years and was awarded the OBE for services to regeneration in the 2005 New Years Honours list.

Ralph’s sailing accomplishments include the following:

August 1993
Introduced to sailing on a Catalina 380 at Cowes Week on Isle of Wight

May 1994
Purchased my first boat Filanda a 23 ½ ft Colvic Watson motor sailor which I learnt on in River Medway, Thames Estuary, South and East Coasts of England, RYA Competent Crew

Summer 1996
Obtained RYA Day Skipper

Summers of 1997,98, & 99
Bareboat Charters in Greece with Sunsail

Summer of 1998
Sold Filanda and bought Catalina 28, Felicity

Spring 2000-2002
Bareboat Charters in South of France

April 2002
Sold Felicity and purchased Catalina 34, JAVA and obtained RYA Yachtmaster

June 2002
Rally Portland from Plymouth to Gibraltar

September 2002
Gibraltar to Alicante

September 2003
Alicante to Barcelona

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