Enormous and expansive though it may be, normally it still only takes a quarter of an hour to get from one end of the Villa Comunale to the other.

Today was anything but a normal day in Naples’ huge public park, however, as ORACLE Racing sailors James Spithill, Joe Newton and Dirk De Ridder were to discover.

The President of AC Naples, the local organising committee, Paolo Graziano, put crowd estimates along the extensive Naples waterfront - from Mergellina Marina and Castel dell'Ovo - and in the Race Village at the Villa Comunale at a massive 250 000 on this sunny holiday Monday.

Eager to experience at first hand the affection and enthusiasm of the Neapolitan crowds, the three sailors took a break from a technical meeting to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere that swept through the town on Easter Monday. The brave trio were swept up in the crowds, making them much later than expected for their arrival at the Cassa Armonica, situated in the heart of the Villa Comunale.

"Given my experience with Luna Rossa in the past, I knew that the reaction from the Italian public would be huge,” said James Spithill, skipper of ORACLE Racing. “Of course I wasn’t expecting a crowd quite like this; it's really exciting to see.”

All along the way, Spithill and his companions were applauded and embraced by the crowd, with the most enthusiastic supporters seizing the opportunity for a photo or a quick conversation with the sailing stars.

The public tour by Spithill and co. lasted for over an hour, when they eventually reached the Fountain of Saint Lucia and the Puma store in the Race Village.

Jimmy Spithill:

No question Naples have produced the biggest crowds....and we havent even raced yet!!!
I knew it would be be big bringing the ACWS to Italy, but i didnt expect this. The Italian fans have to be the best in the world. There were over 250,000 here today. Everyone was really excited about the event, the boats and of course about Luna Rossa. Really important that Luna Rossa are back, and that the Italian audience is engaged. Going to be a fun week, hopefully we wil get some breeze and put on a good show for them.

All photos © Guilain GRENIER & Gilles Martin-Raget / ACEA