View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

America’s Cup to be Contested on UAE’s ‘Pirate Coast’ off Ras al-Khaimah

According to Associated Press (5 August 2009):
Two-time defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland announced Tuesday it has chosen Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, as the port for the America’s Cup—the oldest trophy in international sports.

Beautifully Appropriate
This stretch of water was named ‘Pirate Coast’ after raiders frequently harassed ships during the 17th century to the 19th centuries despite European and Arab navies patrolling the area.

What a fitting historical backdrop for the best-of-3 showdown between these bitter rivals, Alinghi of Switzerland and American’s BMW Oracle Racing.

Where’s Ras al-Khaimah?
People have heard of Dubai and Abu Dhabi but who, what and where is Ras al-Khaimah?

Ras al-Khaimah (in Arabic ‘top of the tent’) or ‘RAK’ as it is affectionately known in the Emirates is one of the lesser known emirates in the United Arab Emirates that used to be part of Sharjah. It is in the northern part of the country, bordering an enclave of Oman and looking out to the Persian Gulf.

(N.B. This stretch of water is often called the ‘Arabian Gulf’ (see this photo or this map) but beware of the reaction from Iran before you use this term).

RAK is currently the fifth most populated of the seven emirates. The projected population figures for the end of 2009 are Dubai (1.722 mill), Abu Dhabi (1.628 mill), Sharjah (1.017 mill), Ajman (250,000), Ras al-Khaimah (241,000), Fujairah (152,000) and Umm al Quwain (56,000).

Ras al-Khaimah is an emirate that has concentrated on heavy industry having opened the UAE's first cement company in the early 1970s and becoming the UAE's largest producer of cement. In the 1980s, the emirate formed RAK Ceramics, which has become the world's largest ceramics producer and Julphar is the Persian Gulf’s first pharmaceuticals company.

Sea, Weather and Safety
According to the announcement Ras al-Khaimah has been chosen by defending America’s Cup champion Alinghi of Switzerland because of its weather, safety (compared to Valencia) and support.

Alinghi skipper, Brad Butterworth, a four-time America's Cup winner, said that Ras al-Khaimah “has a great, building sea breeze during the day, similar to Mediterranean conditions in the summer, making it good for these boats and safe for all concerned.”

UAE's Initial Reaction
The ruler of Ras al-Khaimah, Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, said it is "a great moment for us to host the America's Cup here. It is significant because it reflects how the Emirates have become a place for hosting international events. It is a reflection on what we have achieved in terms of becoming the destination for tourists and trade and industry and is a reflection of our integration in the world at large."

Bernie Wilson, Swiss pick UAE's Ras al-Khaimah for America's Cup, The Associated Press, 5 August 2009.

Check out the new web site America’s Cup in the UAE.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: RAK “is in the northern part of the country, bordering an enclave of Oman and looking out to the Persian Gulf.” (Map courtesy of Wikipedia-CLICK TO ENLARGE).