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2016 September October Marina World

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COVER STORY: ACI

COVER STORY: ACI Fast-tracking a vision for modern boating tourism In developed ‘capitalist’ countries, where boating is well established, boat ownership has long been considered elitist and marinas seen as amenities for the rich. This view often still prevails, and spreading the word that boating is a sport for all continues to be a mission for boating industry associations. beneficial influence on the economy. Boating tourism did not exist and there were only a few marinas on Yugoslavia’s Adriatic coast and islands, mostly located next to shipyards. Yachting was viewed as a decadent western pursuit and foreign boaters suspected as potential spies. A strong naval presence was thus enforced during the tourist season. This made foreign boaters uncomfortable but didn’t drive them away from the wild and extraordinarily beautiful Adriatic coast. Local sailors – commercial and pleasure – most particularly took to the seas. Organised berths used by sailing yachts belonging to numerous sailing clubs were If overcoming a hurdle such as this is necessary in capitalist environments, an attempt to build a quality marina in a communist economy is a mountaineering exercise. Former Yugoslavia climbed the peak. Not once, but 18 times, constructing a chain of marinas under the Adriatic Club Yugoslavia (ACY) business model in 1983/84. The achievement was all the more extraordinary as ACY – now Adriatic Croatia International Club (ACI) – was founded in the politically and economically difficult period between the death in 1980 of Josip Broz Tito, the creator of socialist Yugoslavia and its president for life, and the 1990 breakup of Yugoslavia. Tito’s legacy In the latter years of Tito’s rule, Yugoslavia’s economy was in crisis, the authorities fomented a fear of capitalism, private property was demonised and there was great hostility Marina Pišcera is a seasonal marina offering good facilities to boaters seeking a quieter mooring on an uninhabited island. Offering a total of 281 wet berths and with ability to moor vessels up to 40m (131ft) in length, Marina Opatija is one of the best marinas in the northern Adriatic. towards private enterprise. However, even the strictest anti-capitalist advocates of isolation were sometimes forced to admit the advantages of opening up towards the west and its marinas of a sort, and mass regattas were organised along the length and breadth of the Adriatic. Founding ACY The Yugoslavian boating community played the main role in the creation of ACY but its foundations were laid by Ante Markovic and Veljko Barbieri; lifelong friends and passionate sailors. In 1982 Ante Markovic accepted 36 www.marinaworld.com - September/October 2016

COVER STORY: ACI the thankless but challenging role as prime minister of Croatia. He hired Barbieri and, together, they proposed a programme to develop modern boating tourism through the establishment of a dedicated boating company and the construction of a chain of marinas. Building the marinas would provide employment for construction firms and an army of small traders and craftsmen, all of whom had endured hard times through lack of recent work and money. Twenty-five marinas were originally planned with a view to attracting well-off boaters to the Adriatic. The boaters would spend ‘hard currency’, the sports scene would be enriched and interest in cultural heritage would be sparked. Barbieri and a team of six worked night and day to prepare the first feasibility study. It was accepted by the Executive Council of the Croatian Parliament. Despite attacks from all sides for its ‘pro-western’ and ‘capitalist’ aims, the ACY mega project got off the ground. Half of the funding required was provided by the INA oil company, granting a loan in exchange for hard currency. The other half came from 69 firms with various agricultural, retail, catering, tourism and service interests. An agreement signed in Split on 1st July 1983 marked the official founding of ACY. Moving swiftly Just 18 months from the beginning of the project, the first boats were berthing in 16 marinas in the most attractive locations on the Adriatic coast and islands. It was a fantastically short turnaround. The first three marinas – Vocide, Jezera and Skradin – were built in just 120 days. The Kornati Islands marinas of Zut and Piškera were particularly difficult to build and navy tank carriers designed for landing operations were enlisted to help. The marinas in Trogir, Milna on the island of Brac, Palmizana on Hvar, Vrboska, Pomer, Umag, Rovinj and Supetarska Draga all followed in time for the 1984 season. Marinas in Pula, Rab and Split opened in 1985. On 1st July 1989 – ACY Day – the beautiful Marina Korcula opened and exactly one year later Marina Opatija in Icici opened its doors. This was the result of a cooperation with the Italian Ligresti-Grassetto group; the first true joint venture ever in Yugoslavia. The ACY chain had high, uniform and recognisable standards of boating services. It provided safe berths, power, water, toilets and hot showers, excellent restaurants and maintenance workshops. The marina shops stocked everything from freshly baked bread, fruit, vegetables and general groceries to outboard engines, fenders and foghorns. Duty-free shops offered nautical apparel designed exclusively for ACY, specially commissioned gold jewellery, shipboard linen and many Separated from each other by reasonable sailing distances, ACI marinas form a perfect necklace along the Croatian coast. other articles. It was all part of the ACY system. In addition to all of this, a charter service was introduced, a race programme developed and a sailing school launched. The charter operation functioned exceptionally well from the outset and the ACY-owned sailing fleet eventually grew to over 100 vessels, some of which were booked up for as long as 30 weeks a year. The town of Rovinj began to host the ACY Cup Match Race; one of the world’s most prestigious sailing competitions. Barbieri launched a sailing school, the Adriatic Nautical Academy, and it attracted 500 attendees a year. In 1989 ACY’s revenue was DM83 million, and the profit was DM13 million and growing. This was the golden age. Riches to rags As ACY was prospering, the inevitable disintegration of Yugoslavia reached its culmination. Croatia and ACY were sucked into the raging vortex of war and naval vessels ruled the Adriatic. Dubrovnik’s Komolac Marina was bombarded and occupied by the Yugoslav People’s Army. Yachts were burnt or otherwise vandalised or declared as war booty. ACY management led by Barbieri managed to save some of the boats but the future for ACY was now in jeopardy. The island of Zut in the Kornati Archipelago has olive trees, fig trees, vineyards, the odd fisherman or shepherd and a 135-berth marina. Marina Zut has full amenities including a grocery store and a restaurant. www.marinaworld.com - September/October 2016 37

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