The America’s Cup, sailing’s oldest and most prestigious prize, has arrived in the Sultanate ahead of the first Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series event of 2016. The iconic trophy was treated to a grand welcoming ceremony that included a fanfare from a traditional Omani band after arriving at Muscat International Airport.
The ceremony was attended by a host of dignitaries including Her Excellency Maitha Al Mahrouqi, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Chairwoman of Oman Sail.
“It is a great honour to host the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, such a prestigious and important event in international sailing. It is amazing to have the trophy here in Oman, to welcome so many international media and guests and to showcase the ability of the Sultanate of Oman to host events of this magnitude,” said Her Excellency.
“We have developed sailing significantly in Oman through our national organisation, Oman Sail, over the last few years and sailing has become one of the major sports in the Sultanate. To welcome the America’s Cup sailors to Oman and to be the first country to kick off the 2016 season is a great honour.”
Sir Russell Coutts, CEO of the America’s Cup Event Authority, and Dr Harvey Schiller, America’s Cup Commercial Commissioner, were also joined by Oman Sail CEO David Graham to welcome the trophy to Oman and America’s Cup racing to the Middle East for the first time in the event’s 165-year history.
“It is fantastic to bring the America’s Cup to this part of the world. The good thing about Oman is that the country has a very rich maritime heritage and connection with the ocean and you can feel that when you come here – the people are very passionate about it and very excited about the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series being here. I’m sure we are going to have a great event,” he said.
“Last season we saw three different winners and I think this year it is going to remain very competitive. The series leaders, Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand, are doing incredibly well, but I believe some of the other teams that we haven’t seen in first place yet, may feature prominently in this event. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dean Barker and Soft Bank Team Japan made a good showing here.
“I think the quality of the racing will be fantastic and it will be very close between the teams. The anticipation is building here in Oman and I think everyone is excited to get the racing going and see some action.”
Following its arrival, the America’s Cup trophy was transported to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, for a photoshoot with the sailors. The grandeur of the mosque and the elegance of the oldest trophy in international sport combined to heighten anticipation ahead of racing on Saturday.
“This event is very much up for grabs,” said ORACLE TEAM USA skipper Jimmy Spithill. “We know it’s going to be tough. Every single one of the teams here is at the top level, with great sailors, great athletes. We know that if we make a mistake on the race course we’ll be punished for it and that’s how it should be. We can’t wait to get started.”
Friday has official practice racing followed by the Opening Ceremony. Racing takes place on Saturday and Sunday beginning at 14:00 local time (GMT+4) each day.