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America's Cup to be staged in Middle East

The America's Cup will be sailed in the Middle East for the first time, the Swiss defenders Alinghi and Societe Nautique de Geneve announced today.

As revealed by The Independent last week, the tiny Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah has been picked to host the best of three series beginning on 8 February next year.

But the choice is sure to be contested by the challenger, the San Francisco-based BMW-Oracle on the grounds that it contravenes the terms of the late-19th century deed which sets down the rules and is also outside an earlier ruling in the New York Supreme Court by Justice Herman Cahn, which specifically named Valencia as an acceptable venue in the northern hemisphere winter. "We are reviewing our options," said a spokesman.

The legal war is now in the hands of Justice Shirley Kornreich, who is due to preside over an evidentiary hearing next Monday principally to decide when Oracle should give officially registered details of the dimensions of what is at the moment a 90-foot by 90-foot trimaran.

Alinghi will argue that "as soon as possible" means immediately. Oracle will argue for the maximum delay. Oracle will want to see the publication by Alinghi of the measurement rules, which are thought to be imminent, and many think Oracle is building a second boat.

The venue argument may be raised at that hearing or on later application and Oracle is known already to be preparing an argument that the Swiss team has not originated within the country all the equipment and materials on the boat.

Said a spokesman for Alinghi: "The venue is fantastic and the UAE is a fantastic place to organise an America's Cup. Our core message is that we want America's Cup 33 to be fought on the water as soon as possible."

In a soggy Cowes where paddles were often more effective than sails, the plan to have a celebrity race round the island for the Artemis Trophy had to be abandoned and the nine Open 60s were given an eastern Solent and Spithead course. They were put out of their misery at No Man's Land Fort with Seb Josse and Ellen MacArthur's BT in the lead with 34 of the 41 scheduled miles completed.

Many other courses were shortened, many competitors retired, and some classes, including the X One Design, were abandoned.