x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

RAK defends America's Cup rights

Filing in New York court refutes claims the emirate is unfit to host yachting event because of infrastructure and security concerns.

The Al Hamra Marina near Ras al Khaimah is due to host the 33rd American Cup yacht races in February next year.
The Al Hamra Marina near Ras al Khaimah is due to host the 33rd American Cup yacht races in February next year.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Ras al Khaimah has defended its right to host the 33rd America's Cup yacht races in a submission filed to the New York state Supreme Court yesterday. The amicus curie brief came in response to a motion filed on October 1 by the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), the backers to the Oracle syndicate of BMW Oracle Racing, that the emirate was an "illegitimate and unsafe" venue unsuitable for hosting one the world's most prestigious sporting events.

The move surrounded the choice by Alinghi of RAK as the venue for the best-of-three-race series due to be staged from Al Hamra Village February 8-12. The emirate has invested more than US$120 million (Dh440.7m) into infrastructure, most of it between the public announcement of RAK as the host in August and GGYC's court challenge filed two months later. "Ras al Khaimah is surprised and offended by GGYC's attacks both in this litigation and publicly, which have been widely reported," said Dr Khater Massaad, the chief executive of the Ras al Khaimah Investment Authority, in a statement yesterday. He claimed the GGYC wanted to move the event to a location that better suited their Oracle BMW yacht.

"Because these accusations about RAK are untrue and unfair, we felt it was necessary for us to present the court with a full and accurate picture of the safety and security of RAK. "We also felt compelled to inform the court about the numerous infrastructure improvements RAK has undertaken in preparation for the America's Cup and defend our international reputation." Dr Massaad assured BMW Oracle that Ras al Khaimah would be ready to host its team, saying RAK is awaiting the syndicate's final specifications so its base could be completed. That process should be finished within two weeks of receipt, he said.

The Ministry of Interior will increase police, troops and coast- guards in RAK for the America's Cup and will transfer security personnel from Abu Dhabi in the days leading up to the event, RAK authorities said. Extra coastguard patrols will monitor territorial waters and RAK will hire private security companies if desired by the competitors. The small size of the emirate, Dr Massaad said, meant that RAK was no greater a security risk than Dubai or Abu Dhabi, which host dozens of high-profile sports and arts events a year.

"As a result of the close proximity and centralised security, it would be rather absurd to distinguish between the security of any one emirate in the UAE and another that is just a short distance away," said Dr Massaad. "Indeed, notwithstanding its unfounded attacks on our nation, it is noteworthy that Oracle - whose co-founder and chief executive, Larry Ellison, is plaintiff GGYC's principal sponsor - has its own Middle East headquarters located in Dubai. Lead counsel for plaintiff, Latham & Watkins, also has offices in the UAE."

Dr Massaad's submission to the New York court included an attachment of an e-mail to him written last month from BMW Oracle's security adviser, Brent Ivil, in which Mr Ivil stated that he "look[ed] forward to working closely and in partnership with your security personal [sic] in making this major event a huge success demonstrating what a safe and beautiful emirate Ras al Khaimah is ..." Finally, Dr Massaad dismissed concerns that RAK's proximity to Iran was a cause for alarm, citing the emirate's excellent relations with all neighbouring countries and the high volume of commercial shipping that passed safely through RAK's waters on a daily basis.

The next key date in determining whether the yachting competition, inaugurated in 1851, will remain in RAK is October 27, when a New York judge will rule on Oracle's motion to depose RAK in favour of the Spanish port city of Valencia. Dr Theodore Karasik, a senior researcher at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said Oracle's security fears were unfounded. "There is a perception outside the region that RAK is part of the northern Emirates and therefore somehow distinct from the rest of the UAE," he said. "The assumption that RAK is different, or less safe, is unfair."

"The security record for events in the UAE is excellent and the federal Government are very efficient at discovering and acting on any potential threats. The preparation for major events is no different on a federal level whether it is in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Ras al Khaimah," Dr Karasik said azacharias@thenational.ae tbrooks@thenational.ae