RAS AL KHAIMAH // The most prestigious sailing event in the world, the America's Cup, will be held in Ras al Khaimah next year. The venue for the competition, which has been running since 1851, is chosen by the previous winner. The recent dominance of the Swiss Alinghi team - whose home country is landlocked - has meant selecting neutral venues. Ras al Khaimah is the latest, named yesterday by Fred Mayer, the vice-commodore of the Societe Nautique de Genève, the yacht club behind the Alinghi team, who said that the UAE had an excellent record in preparing and hosting major international sporting events. "This is a venue that offers perfect weather and great sailing conditions for a match in February; the authorities have shown tremendous interest in and support for hosting the America's Cup, and the country has experience in organising first-class sporting events such as ATP tennis, PGA golf and Formula One." The event will be staged at the Al Hamra village, where an island will be constructed to house the teams and launch the boats. Winners of the 32nd America's Cup, held in Valencia, Spain, the Alinghi team will be familiar with local conditions: they have been based in Dubai for five months. However, the team has been embroiled in a long-running court case with their challengers, Oracle, and the decision on the venue, although unrelated to the case, is expected to be contested. It is understood that the race location will be ratified by organisers within the next fortnight. The announcement was welcomed by Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qassimi, the Crown Prince of Ras al Khaimah, who said he was proud the emirate could further enhance the UAE's reputation for hosting major international sporting events. "It is a great moment for us to host the America's Cup here," he said. "It is a reflection on what we have achieved in terms of becoming the destination for tourists and trade, and is a reflection of our integration in the world at large. "It is a great moment for us to host this prestigious event and to welcome all sports people to RAK; we are looking forward to its success." The announcement was also greeted with enthusiasm by the local sailing fraternity. Mike Loubser, rear commodore of the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, said conditions will ensure that local enthusiasts and visitors across the world will witness a fast race. "Boats in the America's Cup are very fast, and the public will want to see them racing in their element," Mr Loubser said. "The calm seascape and consistent wind speeds will ensure an exciting spectacle. If RAK can attract major events and improve its maritime infrastructure, then the market will open up. "It gives the UAE another sailing destination. The announcement is a considerable coup." Marian Shy, 36, an RAK resident, said the competition would bring international recognition for the emirate and help showcase it as a tourist destination. "The America's Cup is a major, global event and it will bring many people to RAK," she said. "For several years, there has been major development of the city, especially in the creation of marina developments and new hotels. The tournament will be a major test for the city to see whether it can host an event on this scale, but it also proves its potential as a resort and justifies the investment in infrastructure." But Alex Carter, 37, of New Zealand, a resident of Al Hamra, said concerns had been voiced that RAK would not have enough time to prepare for the event. "It is only a small city and it lacks the transport infrastructure of Dubai or Abu Dhabi," he said. "There is limited electricity supply, which means that even if the development is enlarged, it may not all have access to power. With the city set to be in the spotlight it provides the perfect motivation to make RAK a major UAE tourist destination in its own right." Although the number of boats competing varies from year to year, the champion always faces a challenger. With the exception of the inaugural contest in 1851, held in England, the competition was staged solely in the US until 1987, when a victory by an Australian crew sent the cup to another continent for the first time. firstname.lastname@example.org
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