US team Oracle has rejected Ras al Khaimah as the venue for its February duel with America's Cup defender Alinghi, describing it as "illegitimate and unsafe" due to its proximity to Iran. It called on the New York Supreme Court to order the race to be held in the Spanish Mediterranean port of Valencia instead. Alinghi, represented by the Societe Nautique de Genève (SNG), and Oracle have been engaged in a two-year legal battle over the next America's Cup since the Swiss team won the last edition of yachting's premier event in 2007.
The 33rd America's Cup was meant to be settled in a three-leg duel starting on February 8 instead of the traditional fully-fledged regatta involving several teams under a ruling by a New York court. In a surprise move,Alinghi, owned by the Swiss biotech billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, announced in August that Ras al Khaimah would be the site of its duel with Oracle. Its giant catamaran arrived in the emirate on Wednesday.
The Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), which represents Oracle, said today that under America's Cup rules the race cannot be held in the northern hemisphere without the mutual consent of the two teams. "The only exception is Valencia, which the (New York) court's April 7, 2009 decision expressly permits," it said in a statement. Representatives of Oracle, owned by American computer billionaire Larry Ellison, inspected the Ras al Khaimah site last month.
"It was clear that the RAK venue fails on every key measure necessary for a successful America's Cup, including: lack of infrastructure, security and wind," the GGYC said. "Moreover, in light of the developing situation in the Arabian Gulf region, Ras al Khaimah is particularly unsuitable." It said Alinghi's "proposed course area is within 27 kilometres of islands occupied by Iran in a current territorial dispute with the United Arab Emirates of which Ras al Khaimah is a member state," it said.
"GGYC will not consent to SNG's choice of an illegitimate and unsafe venue." The America's Cup was to be held in the Middle East for the first time as Ras al Khaimah's Investment Authority tries to develop the tiny emirate by attracting investment, tourism and major international events. *AFP