Speaking to a packed crowd of locals, crew and media travelling from afar, Volvo Ocean Race CEO Glenn BOURKE described the 7,000 square metre site as the 'best race village' in the event's history.
It was the culmination of years of preparation for the race start and competition has already started brewing around the village, with each of the team and sponsors' marquees fighting for early bragging rights.
Ericsson got off to a fine start, supplying cold drinks, while ABN AMRO could not muster a chilled or fizzy beer from their gigantic base, though improved as the night went on and won points for the finger food available. Brasil 1 went all out for size with a massive tent, and while the décor was modest, they made up ground on their rivals with the guitar-strumming efforts of a female member of their shore crew. MoviStar struggled to win over the more hardcore sailors due to the absence of a bar, but for the public, compensated with a fine exhibition featuring a real life size cross section of the sleeping quarters from a Volvo Open 70. The Pirates did not line up for the Battle of the Marquee, but maintained a fearsome presence with cutlass-wielding and bandana-clad people on stilts taunting small children. Premier's challenge was non-existent.
ABN AMRO wins the prize for best innovation, with their simulator offering a hands-on experience of life on a racing boat. Skipper Mike SANDERSON (NZL) provides dialogue as the machine rocks violently in all directions with jets of sea water lashing your face. The CEO volunteered for the test drive, prior to speeches from the local mayor and the Galician Executive Director of Sports who welcomed the event to Galicia, and emerged wet and dishevelled. 'Thank God I'm not racing around the world on these boats,' was how he summed it up.
Later BOURKE revealed his satisfaction with the evening's events and his relief that another milestone has been passed en route to the race start on Saturday.
'In the end it [the village] was fantastic. I didn't know how we were going to get it on; we had fork lifts, cables and containers everywhere three hours beforehand,' he said.
'I've run a yacht club, managed the Olympic games sailing competition, which is a huge juggernaut in itself with 1,000 volunteers and 300 staff, but I must admit the complexity and the diversity of the challenges here have been massive; it's really what makes the job interesting and I'm sure I'll look back in time and say 'wasn't that a wonderful experience' but now my hair is going grey very quickly, but we are getting there.' BOURKE also hinted at the frustrations borne from four years of working towards a distant objective, but with the first In Port race just days away, the wait is nearly over.
'Each milestone we need to make we are making, and I think the race looks as impressive as we've ever seen it. The boats look wonderful. I've spoken to a few of the old hands around the traps and they are just like: 'let's get this thing on'. They sense the same frustration as everyone else. You've done years of planning and preparation and the intensity has built to such a point where you are frayed. They haven't had enough sleep, like the people in my team. They are working late at night and getting up for more in the morning. That intensity has been increasing and increasing, but once the gun goes for that first In Port race things will start to calm down. We don't really calm down until Rio when we know exactly where we sit in the scheme of things. But there will be a certain relief valve blowing off at two in the afternoon on Saturday the fifth.'
For a complete list of all the news about the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006 CLICK HERE.