Russell Coutts - the skipper and chief executive of America's Cup challengers BMW Oracle - will visit Ras al Khaimah before deciding whether his team should drop their challenge of the venue for February's competition. Alinghi, the Swiss team who are holders of the famous trophy, named the northern emirate as host venue last week.
BMW Oracle had threatened legal action if a northern hemisphere venue - other than Valencia, in Spain - was chosen, and repeated this in an open letter on Thursday. "I think everyone knows what our opinion is in terms of the legal issues of that decision," he said. "We have made it quite clear but having said that we are prepared to look at the place and assemble all the facts before we make a decision."
The two sides have clashed repeatedly in the New York Supreme Court over rules for the clash, with another hearing tomorrow unlikely to end a two-year dispute over construction and race rules. BMW Oracle may meet Alinghi to discuss the merits of Ras al Khaimah as the venue for the world's most famous sailing competition. "We need to find out what they see in Ras al Khaimah, and to meet people there and see what the plans are in terms of facilities and infrastructure.
"That's why we are going to scope it out," said Coutts. Flat seas and a building sea breeze are thought to be perfect for Alinghi's 90ft catamaran, but Coutts said it was too early to say whether Ras al Khaimah's conditions would suit their equally large trimaran. "As far as the weather conditions go, we don't know anything about them yet, so its hard to say whether it will benefit one team or another," he said.
"We are still doing the sea trials and identifying some issues and making adjustments. "With these boats there are a lot of factors and it is a constant race against time." Coutts did say that when the show finally gets on the water, it would be one of the most spectacular clashes in America's Cup history. "These boats are capable of going fast. "They are really not that much to look at if the breeze stays around six knots but when it comes up to 15 knots we reckon we can get going up to three times the speed of the wind," he said.
Alinghi's preparation continued as Alinghi 5, their America's Cup boat, was air lifted off Lake Geneva on Friday by a giant Russian Mil Mi26 helicopter and taken to Genoa in Italy where the boat will enjoy a bit more sea room. "We will be able to stretch Alinghi 5's legs and sail it for many hours in one direction to try and optimise the boat for the old Deed of Gift race courses," said the skipper Brad Buterworth, who used to sail with rival Coutts.
Alinghi have no concerns over Ras al Khaimah's suitability to host the competition. "We have no reason to doubt Ras al Khaimah's capacities," said Paco Latorre, communications director for Alinghi financier, Ernesto Bertarelli yesterday. "Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qassimi, Crown Prince of Ras al Khaimah, and the authorities are completely behind the project and we have every confidence it will be a success."