America's Cup: Saudi Arabia to host preliminary pre-regatta

Jeddah in Saudi Arabia will stage a preliminary regatta ahead of next year's America's Cup.

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton confirmed all six syndicates that will contest the Auld Mug in Barcelona next year, will also compete for four days on the Red Sea in the regatta starting on November 30.

It will be the only venue outside Spain to host an America's Cup regatta during the 37th edition of the sailing contest and is expect to attract criticism from those who accuse Saudi Arabia of "sports washing" to gloss over its terrible human rights record.

In a press release, America's Cup organisers said the event is in partnership with the Saudi Ministry of Sport and the Saudi Sailing Federation, which has "significant ambitions for the rapid growth of sailing in Saudi Arabia across many top-level sailing events and classes as part of its 'Vision 2030'."

"As the pinnacle of sailing, I know the 37th America's Cup and this preliminary regatta can be utilised as an event for positive influence on a number of fronts," said Dalton, who is also the AC37 Event chief executive.

"When standing back and looking at the opportunity for the growth of our sport that exists in the region it is truly significant.

"Sixty-seven percent of the country's population is under the age of 34 years old, women's participation in sport or physical activity is up 149 percent in recent years.

"So, we have a unique chance to grow sailing and create new connections with the unprecedented sustainability projects within the Red Sea that can transform lives through sailing and the technologies associated with it."

World Sailing chief executive David Graham said Saudi Arabia is ready and willing to embrace sailing and the marine sector.

Hassan Kabbani, Chairman of the Saudi Sailing Federation said: "The America's Cup Preliminary Regatta will help us to accelerate the growth of sailing in Saudi Arabia. We will use it to kick-start a number of new initiatives including a Discover Sailing programme to encourage people on to the water, and a Performance Pathway for talented sailors to train to compete at the top level."

Racing in the AC40's will happen just off the Jeddah Yacht Club, which sits adjacent to the Formula One track.