Kiwis are shaking all the trees
Published on November 29th, 2023
The choice of Jeddah for the America’s Cup Preliminary Regatta on November 30-December 2 has been a conflict of interests.
For an event seeking to be a leader in sustainability, it throws a massive carbon footprint requiring the six teams travel to Saudi Arabia, a country famous for oil. For an event eager to expand its audience, no America’s Cup venue has been so criticized for its oppressive policies.
Cup legend Dennis Conner famously said “Bet on self-interest – It’s always running” and the New Zealand defender, which has pleaded poverty since winning in 2021, will receive a king’s ransom from the Kingdom. To defend again in 2024, the Kiwis are shaking all the trees.
But they are also hearing the outside noise, or so it seems from the numerous reports they’ve generated to present Jeddah in a favorable light. However, the latest by Magnus Wheatley prompted a rebuttal by Mike Thompson of Devon, UK:
Wow! I know that Magnus Wheatley is paid by the America’s Cup, but I am beginning to wonder if it is in money or wacky baccy after his piece on Jeddah. The comedy value is high, but the factual content is low.
Full disclosure – I lived in Jeddah for four years in the mid to late 80s so it has changed a lot since I was there, but at least I have spent a long time in the city including sailing extensively while there (and I even lived very close to the venue for the sailing), so I can relate to some things he has written.
For the record, the sunsets over the Red Sea are stunning and the mix of the old city and the new is fascinating, but I recognize little else that Wheatley has described. Even the heat in Jeddah is generally humid as it is by the Sea – you need to go inland to experience arid heat.
It is true that Jeddah has always been a more open city than any other in the Kingdom, but the locals generally get on with their own lives and are not encouraged to mix with the foreign “infidels” who work in the Kingdom for economic reasons. Wheatley would do well to realize, therefore, that there is a whole darker world of Saudi that lies outside a radius of 30 miles from the city.
Even the Haj pilgrims never reach the marbled halls of the airport through which he walked, as they are siphoned off to the separate Haj terminal where they can be herded around (and sometimes group disinfected) and will not bother other travelers.
The America’s Cup is in Jeddah purely and simply for the financial benefits it brings to the defender, Emirates Team New Zealand. There is no other sporting logic and certainly no environmental justification for carting the whole show over there for a few days of sailing in the (admittedly lovely and warm) Red Sea.
Wheatley does himself, and indeed the whole event, a massive disservice by writing this kind of guff.
Following the publication of the AC37 Protocol and AC75 Class Rule on November 17, 2021, the AC75 Class Rule and AC Technical Regulations were finalized on March 17, 2022. The entry period opened December 1, 2021 and runs until July 31, 2022, but late entries for the 37th America’s Cup may be accepted until May 31, 2023. The Defender was to announce the Match Venue on September 17, 2021 but postponed the venue reveal, confirming it would be Barcelona on March 30, 2022. The 37th America’s Cup begins October 12, 2024.
Teams revealed to challenge defender Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL):
• INEOS Britannia (GBR)
• Alinghi Red Bull Racing (SUI)
• Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team (ITA)
• NYYC American Magic (USA)
• Orient Express Racing Team (FRA)
2023-24 Preliminary Regattas
September 14-17, 2023 (AC40): Vilanova i la Geltrú, Spain
November 30-December 2 (AC40): Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
August 2024 (AC75): Barcelona, Spain
2024 America’s Cup
August 29-October 7: Challenger Selection Series
October 12 – ?: 37th Match (Best of 13)
Additionally, 12 teams will compete in the 2024 Youth & Women’s America’s Cup.