DUBAI // Organisers of the next edition of the America's Cup, due to be staged in Ras al Khaimah in February, said today they would meet the BMW Oracle team next week to assure them there was no security threat in the venue. Khater Massaad, chief executive of the Ras al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA), said officials from the emirate would meet the California-based team to try to allay any concerns. Oracle, backed by the software executive Larry Ellison, said in court papers filed in New York on Friday that the 2010 race should be moved to Valencia in Spain, quoting a US State Department advisory warning to Americans to "exercise a high level of security awareness" because of possible attacks from al Qa'eda and other militant groups.
The disagreement is the latest twist in a two-year legal battle over the terms of yachting's most prestigious race. "We were surprised and shocked. We have written to Larry Ellison that RAK is part of the UAE and the place is safe," Mr Massaad said, pointing out that Oracle's Middle East headquarters were based in Dubai. "The UAE has 10 million tourists a year and millions of Americans and other foreigners live here. There is absolute safety," he said.
Al Qa'eda launched a campaign to destabilise Saudi Arabia in 2003. A failed assassination attempt on the deputy interior minister in August was the first incident since 2006. There were few attacks in other Gulf countries and none in the UAE. Ras al Khaimah is the closest of the emirates to Iran, separated by about 80 miles across the Gulf. Mr Massaad dismissed suggestions its proximity to Iran was an issue. "We have no special relationship with Iran," he said.
BMW Oracle said on October 3: "As a venue for the America's Cup, Ras al Khaimah ... presents grave safety concerns for the team members of an American challenger, named 'USA,' that flies an American flag on a 300-foot (91 metre) mast." The defending champion, Alinghi, which chose the venue and is backed by the billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, dismissed Oracle's claim as a ploy to move the race to a venue preferred by Oracle's backer, Mr Ellison.
Mr Massaad said the race's infrastructure was now in place and the organisers were waiting for the last pontoon designed by Oracle to arrive in the next two weeks. * Reuters