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Mon 21 Mar 2016 10:31 AM

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New MidEast-based team could compete in America’s Cup 2019

Abu Dhabi or Dubai in line to host America’s Cup series event next year

New MidEast-based team could compete in America’s Cup 2019
Land Rover BAR racing in Muscat - race day one. (Lloyd images)

A new team from the Middle East is expected to be among those competing for the America’s Cup in 2019, according to the competition’s CEO.

Russel Coutts, the current head of the America’s Cup, confirmed that there are ongoing discussions with a number of interested parties in the region to submit a team for the next series which will start after next year’s final in Bermuda.

“I think it's quite likely [that a new Middle East team will be in the 2019 competition], particularly if the format stays similar to what it is today,” Coutts told Arabian Business.

“There has been several of the Middle Eastern countries that have expressed a strong interest in competing. Obviously, you'd look at the competition in the Volvo Around the World Race and there's some obvious candidates there,” Coutts added.

The America’s Cup, considered to be the Formula One of sailing, has a former F1 team boss as head of one of the competing teams in the current series.

Martin Whitmarsh, who guided McLaren F1 to multiple world titles, hopes to bring similar success to Land Rover BAR, a team that is skippered by the sport’s most successful Olympian ever, Ben Ainslie.

As well as developing his own team, Whitmarsh has been active in promoting the sport and helping it to reach a new audience, using his experience in F1.

Speaking at the recent America’s Cup series event in Oman, Whitmarsh agreed that a team from the Middle East region could be on the starting line for the next series.

“That’s one of the reasons we’re here [in Oman],” he says. “This is not home territory for any of the teams. One of the reasons we wanted to be in this region was that one or two in this area would be a candidate for a team.”

Countries such as Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, China and Russia are also possibilities, based on the broad plan to have a global appeal for the competition, he said, but the Middle East was very much part of the sport’s development plans.

“To be a world sport, you’ve got to have, broadly speaking, probably a third European teams, a third from the Americas and a third from Asia, and in amongst that you’d expect at least one Middle Eastern team,” he said.

There are also talks about adding another venue from the GCC to the current series. Following on from the success of Oman’s hosting of the event last month, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are amongst 17 venues across the world that could host an event in Q1 next year.

“We may well be coming back again. They are still talking about first quarter next year ... whipping over to maybe Abu Dhabi or some other [venue in GCC],” said Whitmarsh. “We’ve got to do what we’ve never done before. If you’ve got a product, you’ve got to grow, develop it and sell it and we haven’t done that.”

Read full story on how the America’s Cup looks to broaden its appeal as a global sport here

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