America’s Cup: Spain, Ireland and Saudi Arabia firm up as likely hosts

Valencia has withdrawn from the race to host the 37th America’s Cup – but Spain is still very much in it.

International yachting sources have confirmed that a second Spanish bid is being made, dampening some of the rumours doing the rounds in sailing circles that the Saudis are at the front of the queue with a big-money bid to hold the regatta in Jeddah.

Emirates Team New Zealand’s announcement of the new one-design AC40 yacht that will help expand pathways into the main event, particularly for women, also contained a largely overlooked line. It said the 37th America’s Cup will be a multi-challenger event – effectively closing the door on the proposed one-on-one challenge at Cowes between Team NZ and Ineos Team UK.

So Spain (probably Barcelona), Cork in Ireland and Jeddah remain potential venues, one of whom is likely to be named on Friday.

The second Spanish bid is a surprise in that all attention had previously been focused on Valencia – which has the infrastructure from the 2007 America’s Cup all waiting and ready to go. Unfortunately, they also have large debts remaining from that previous hosting; local authorities could not promise more money – confirming their withdrawal from the race yesterday.

The compelling feature of the second Spanish bid is that it is powered by government money and has the backing of the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, and the central government.No single city has been named but Barcelona seems a distinct possibility.

Spain has long been involved with, and interested in, the Cup. Its Desafio Espanol challengers competed in 2000 and 2007 and Spanish brewer Estrella Damm was a prominent Team NZ sponsor for a time.

However, while the Herald understands that Barcelona and Cork in Ireland are still in the race, rumours that Jeddah has already signed up as the venue may be overstated.

The popular misconception is that the Saudis are throwing boatloads of cash to secure such events. They do, though there is no sign yet that some of the figures bandied about are anything but speculation.

There are other issues which may cloud Jeddah’s bid – the wind in Jeddah is not exactly reliable and human rights and political considerations could affect challengers from the US and even from the UK, with Ineos Team UK the challenger of record.

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