New York, Newport, Perth, San Diego, Auckland, Valencia, and…Ras al-Khaimah. What do these places have in common? Each has hosted or will host the America’s Cup, the old-running trophy in sports. You’ll quickly notice that one of these names is not like the others. Sailing in the Middle East is a fledgling sport, to put it kindly, but thanks to the battle of the egos otherwise known as the 33rd America’s Cup, the next defense will be hosted in the emirate nation of Ras al-Khaimah.
In case you are unfamiliar with this place, its name in Arabic translates to “the top of the tent”, and it is one of seven nations that comprise the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Ras al-Khaimah occupies 656 square miles and is home to some 300,000 people. Its capitol city is a 45-minute drive from the Dubai airport, and the country is nestled on the southern aspect of the Persian Gulf; Ras al-Khaimah also borders Oman. It also happens to be quite close to America’s good friend and ally, Iran.
So, will the 33rd Cup be a farce? Well, aside from the fact that the America’s Cup will be fought out in the Persian Gulf, and Cup fans in Iran will be closer to the action than American fans, the defender, Alinghi, has successfully argued in front of the New York Superior Court that it should be allowed to use powered winches on Alinghi 5, its mega-catamaran. These powered winches will be run by an engine — that’s right, an engine in the America’s Cup — as the loads are just too great for human power.
As of yet there has been no word about camel racing as a sideshow, but given the state of Cup affairs, at this point anything can happen. As the saying goes, you couldn’t write fiction this strange. Of course, there is bound to be further court action, so watch this space.