Once in a lifetime offer

Our legendary powerboating writer turned down a 21-year lease in Puerto Banus for £950!

I recently made a trip down memory lane. Taking a short holiday in Marbella a few weeks ago, I was asked by Mike Lloyd, principal organiser of the Cowes to Monte Carlo Powerboat Grand Prix in 2013, to approach the Puerto Banus harbourmaster to find if he could accommodate the racing fleet (or what would be left of it) overnight and possibly for an additional rest day.

It was in an almost brand new Puerto Banus where the London to Monte Carlo race was hosted in 1972. The ratmataz surrounding the marina, bars, restaurants and fashion houses added to its style and made it an ideal venue where family members could fly down to meet up with crews. In those days the marina was almost empty and could easily accommodate a large number of visitors but times change. Today it’s jam-packed with boats.

I found the harbourmaster, known locally as the harbour engineer, sitting in his ivory tower, the old entrance lighthouse now converted into a three-storey office block. No way was I going to see him without an appointment. He had at least a dozen very attractive female PAs guarding him against such unwelcome intruders.

After going from floor to floor I was eventually seen by who I can only imagine was a senior member of his staff. “What exactly was I after?” I said I would like to bring, say, 35 racing powerboats (assuming by then at least 15 or so had fallen out) to the marina in June 2013. The fleet would also require around 25,000 litres of fuel.

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Instead of throwing up her hands in horror she simply gave me a visiting card and suggested my organiser writes to the harbour engineer. I later noticed space at the eastern end of the marina that was in complete contrast and plentiful compared to the west. Because of this the final approach for berthing space will hopefully prove positive but my reception was entirely different to my initial experience 40 years ago.

It was in 1971 that I and about 15 other British yachting journalists were flown down for a two-day visit to a new venue on the south coast of Spain. We arrived to see an open area of water completely bare apart from a large number of pontoons regularly spaced along its jetties.

The Spanish dictator, General Franco, was still alive, and he seemed to be a close mate of Senior Jose Banus. Somehow the money was raised but the marina was very much a gamble as to whether it would attract the kind of customer needed for ongoing success. Hence our press visit.

Some apartments, bars and restaurants had been built but the rest was little more than a pile of bricks. When I arrived a year later as RYA observer for the London to Monte Carlo race I came in style, landing by helicopter in the marina car park.

This seemed to impress a management keen to attract high flying (excuse the pun) clients, hence why at that evening’s reception I was offered a one-bedroom apartment off-plan for £3,500 and a 21-year lease on a 12-metre berth for £950!

I simply shrugged my shoulders and turned both offers down. I should have had my brains tested!


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