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Posted by on Aug 6, 2009 in Sailboat Racing, UK, US |

Middle East Venue for America’s Cup Match

The tiny Emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah has been chosen to host the 33rd America's Cup, not far from two major American war zones.

The tortured tale of the 33rd America’s Cup Match keeps getting stranger. I don’t claim any special crystal-ball skills, but in my blog earlier this week, I indicated that the Alinghi team was likely to pick a light-air sailing venue in which to defend the America’s Cup with the catamaran they have built. Now that it’s happened—the Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah, about 60 miles from Dubai—is to host the “Deed of Gift” match, a two races out of three event beginning February 8th next year.

Rendering of the proposed America's Cup village on Al Hamra Island

Rendering of the proposed America's Cup village on Al Hamra Island

But 60 miles from Dubai, which lies to the southwest, means that the sailing venue will be within 30 nautical miles of Iran. According to some experts, such as writer Richard Gladwell in his Sail-World story today, Iran is unlikely to interfere with an event sure to attract heavy military security, but it provokes some interesting thoughts to say the least:

Given the proximity of the waters of seven states of the United Arab Emirates to the Iranian territorial waters, and the requirement under the Deed of Gift for the windward leeward course of ’20 nautical miles to windward and return’ the vexed issue of straying, or being perceived to be straying inside the 12 mile limit.

Stuart Alexander’s story today in the Independent highlights the news and points to the next likely step

But the choice is sure to be contested by the challenger, the San Francisco-based BMW-Oracle on the grounds that it contravenes the terms of the late-19th century deed which sets down the rules and is also outside an earlier ruling in the New York Supreme Court by Justice Herman Cahn, which specifically named Valencia as an acceptable venue in the northern hemisphere winter.

Sure, the event will be back in the New York court system in the next week, and likely not for the last time. Ultimately, though, if the Cup proceeds to the Middle East after straying in the last quarter century merely from Newport to Fremantle, and from San Diego to Auckland to Valencia, the main question may be whether the American trimaran can power up sufficiently to match the speed of the catamaran when it flies a hull in modestly light winds. This recent trialing picture suggests it may be up to the task.

—John Burnham

BMW Oracle's trimaran flies two hulls off San Diego.

BMW Oracle's trimaran flies two hulls off San Diego. Gilles Martin-Raget photo