JEDDAH: Skippers of participating teams at the second preliminary regatta of the 37th America’s Cup praised the warm welcome they have received from Saudi Arabia since their arrival and assured that the country is capable of hosting such a race with its facilities and infrastructure.
Their remarks came during a press conference held at the Jeddah Yacht Club on Wednesday ahead of the first official day of the regatta.
Ahead of the press conference, Samia Bagdady, the chief executive of the Saudi Sailing Federation, took the stage and told the press that having an event like America’s Cup with its advanced technology and the highest performing athletes is the best way to inspire children to be what they can be in sailing.
She said: “We’re super excited, and it is in line with the Kingdom’s 2030 sporting vision to increase participation numbers and local awareness. It’s the first time in the America’s Cup history that the oldest event in international sport comes to the Red Sea, and we are very excited to showcase what the Red Sea has to offer for sailing.”
Grant Dalton, CEO of America’s Cup Events, told Arab News that all was set for the race and that he was looking forward to the amazing event, held in Saudi Arabia for the first time.
With the skippers on the stage, Peter Burling, skipper of Emirates Team New Zealand, spoke of the Kiwi approach saying: “Amazing regatta, incredibly excited to be back out sailing, new town, new place … We want the racing to be close … As a sailor, you want to be tested. We go in with an aggressive mindset, ready to perform.”
Sir Ben Ainslie spoke on behalf of the INEOS Britannia team, saying: “We’re focused hard on upping our game.”
Alinghi Red Bull Racing have put considerable resources into this regatta with two boats on-site and some solid blocks of training in Jeddah. They brought in the experienced Dean Barker, Phil Robertson and Jason Waterhouse to help tune up the racing team, and as Arnaud Psarofaghis confirmed: “We have put everything in place to raise the game of the racing crew. We are here to win the regatta.”
Competing in his first regatta in the America’s Cup, Ruggero Tita from Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli is the people’s pick to lead the Italians to future glory.
Tita said: “For sure, it’s a big step. We’re happy to be here to compete … The intensity is really high. We are here to learn. Not many hours in the AC40 but happy to be here and race with these guys.”
Winners in Vilanova at the first preliminary regatta, NYYC American Magic spent the summer training in AC40s but have switched the program to the AC75 in Barcelona. Speaking on behalf of the team, helmsman Paul Goodison said: “It was really successful in Vilanova and the boost it gave back at base, where 100 guys are working day in/day out, made all that work worth working for. Would be a big boost to win again here … We took a lot of confidence from Vilanova … and although we’ve spent a lot of time in AC40 and then switched to AC75, the team still expects to do well, and we are trying to repeat the performance.”
Finally, Quentin Delapierre spoke on behalf of the French Orient Express Racing Team, saying: “In Vilanova, it was a good feeling. We enjoyed racing and the regatta. It means a lot to a new challenge, and we can feel good energy as a team. We’ve worked hard to come here and improve our skills with the simulators, and we just have to trust the process and try to race against this unbelievable fleet.”
Fleet racing practice begins at 1:30 p.m. (local Jeddah time) with three races scheduled on Wednesday, Nov. 29.