Thu, Aug 06, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Swiss pick UAE’s Ras al-Khaimah for America’s Cup

AP , NEW YORK

Alinghi’s catamaran “Alinghi 5” sails at Lake Geneva, off the coast of Lausanne, Switzerland, last Thursday.

PHOTO: AFP

One of the most anticipated showdowns in America’s Cup history will be sailed on the Persian Gulf.

Two-time defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland announced yesterday it had chosen Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), as the port for its best-of-three showdown against bitter American rival BMW Oracle Racing.

In a news release, officials from Alinghi and its supporting yacht club, Societe Nautique de Geneve, said the city-state on the northern tip of the UAE, where the Persian Gulf meets the Gulf of Oman, was chosen because of its sailing conditions and support.

“Our absolute priorities in making this decision are the prevailing weather conditions and the resulting safety that they bring to both teams,” said Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth, a four-time America’s Cup winner.

The giant multi-hulls series will begin on Feb. 8 and could provide the most spectacular racing in the 158-year history of the America’s Cup — the oldest trophy in international sports.

Alinghi will sail a catamaran and BMW Oracle Racing a trimaran. The boats are 30m long, with masts roughly the height of a 16-story building and mainsails twice the size of at Boeing 747’s wing. They can sail at two to two-and-a-half times the speed of the wind.

Alinghi trained in nearby Dubai, UAE, prior to the America’s Cup in 2007, when it beat Team New Zealand in Valencia, Spain.

Butterworth said Ras al-Khaimah “has a great, building sea breeze during the day, similar to Mediterranean conditions in the summer, making it good for these boats and safe for all concerned.”

The size and power of the boats make the consequences of accidents more grave, and both sides have been cautious in bringing them up to speed. Alinghi eliminated Valencia as a venue because of concerns about rough weather in February.

This rare one-on-one match is the result of a convoluted, two-year legal fight between billionaire syndicate heads Ernesto Bertarelli of Alinghi and American software tycoon Larry Ellison of BMW Oracle Racing. The former friends sail aboard the boats they own.

In the Alinghi statement, Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi said it is “a great moment for us to host the America’s Cup here. It is significant because it reflects how the Emirates have become a place for hosting international events. It is a reflection on what we have achieved in terms of becoming the destination for tourists and trade and industry and is a reflection of our integration in the world at large.”

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