…these are the days of our AC lives. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more tawdry and infantile, the soap-opera that is the America’s Cup just keeps coming up with plotlines that are beyond belief. Perhaps that’s the end-game – a long running television series where the boats are seen in the opening credits but no-one ever sails.
The venue was always going to be a point of controversy. Of course it didn’t have to be – mutual consent could have been achieved, but there is as much chance of that as the Americans loading the whole lot of them onto their new rocket to sail the AC on the Sea of Tranquility.
So we had a letter from SNG asking whether the GGYC would be joining them in RAK, then we had a lawsuit suggesting that BMW ORACLE would not like to hang out in the winter sun of the UAE accompanied by a bunch of press statements back and forth about the various reasons why.
The reason that was most widely reported was the proximity of RAK to Iran, and subsequent reports surfaced that RAK was allegedly providing a route for goods to bypass the US imposed sanctions on Iran. This is like saying that San Diego is an unsuitable venue because 5 miles away, people cross over the Mexican border illegally. It was a risky move on behalf of GGYC. Though the American club has stuck by its argument that the venue is not deed compliant, the focus on the security issue accuses UAE member state of being ‘unsafe’ and risks diplomatic incident with further reaching effects than the billionaire boy spat.
The RAK Investment Authority issued a statement reiterating the safety of the venue, repeating the point that RAK is in fact less than 1 hour north of Dubai.
But anyway… Alinghi is in RAK and flexing their muscles with their new gym kit and the boat is there and the diggers and cranes continue to build a venue, which given the precedents set by the F1 track in Abu Dhabi and resort complexes in Dubai, could be a stunning complex within the short timeframe available. It’s still incredibly hard to get to for fans, but how many fans are left?
Yesterday came the reply letter from GGYC. Like all these letters, they are addressed to the recipient, but somewhere there must be a BCC for the media. As always in this case, the contents of the letter were printed verbatim on several websites. The tone of this letter is distinctly different from others – far less diplomacy and even a hint of frustration. If anything it seems more raw – without the PR filter – the kind of response you might send without counting to 10.
The points made by Commodore Marcus Young are all perfectly reasonable and in line with the GGYCs position to date including the assertion that the venue chosen is not deed compliant. He also makes the point that RAK is not Dubai or Abu Dhabi – something which is logical, but seems little insensitive to RAK’s desires to use the event to become more like the neighbouring states.
But then comes the bit that is baffling, whichever side of the fence you sit. Commodore Marcus Young’s letter says:
Nonetheless, in our continuing efforts to find solutions we invited Dr. Khater Massaad, special advisor to H.H. Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi and RAK’s Minister of Tourism, to come to California later this week for meetings with senior GGYC and BMW ORACLE Racing representatives. Importantly, we reaffirmed the invitation to Dr. Massaad after we filed our venue motion, and stated that it was more important than ever that the meeting proceed. Subsequently, Dr. Massaad accepted the invitation, sent us his flights details, and requested a chauffeur to the meeting. You will understand our surprise to read yesterday’s email from Dr. Massaad informing us that he now will not meet with us unless and until GGYC agrees to race in RAK.
We would have thought that, if SNG and RAK were serious about addressing our reservations about RAK, Dr. Massaad’s coming to California to meet us was not just desirable but imperative. It is the first time we have heard of a Minister of Tourism who said, “Commit to coming to my country and then I will come tell you why you should.” Dr. Massaad’s sudden change heart is disappointing to say the least.
From an outsider’s point of view, it is all a bit weird, though no more weird than anything that has come before in this strange soap, but it gets even more seedy…
On October 7, purely by coincidence, a website run by Turner Sport (yes, that’s the same Ted Turner), the same company that owns CNN, ran a previously unreported “bust” of Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi. The article on ‘The Smoking Gun’ website runs the story with the headline “The Sheikh’s Dirty Secret” and allegedly describes an incident of sexual assault in Minnesota. We don’t know if Dr. Khater Massaad’s change of heart to visit the USA came before or after this publication. (We’re not going to link to it – if you want it – google it).
You might as well melt down the America’s Cup and turn it in to strip club ash-trays and in the mean time start casting the soap-opera. Like Days of Our Lives, it could run and run and run and never advance the story one little bit.