Watch: This America’s Cup Race in Saudi Arabia Ended With a Dramatic Crash

The 2021 America’s Cup champions Emirates Team New Zealand won last weekend’s AC40 event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in a nail-biter that saw its closest competitor, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, literally do a nose-dive in the Grand Final.

The America’s Cup Preliminary Regatta Jeddah was the second of the AC40 foiling boat events, with the first taking place in Vilanova, Spain, in September. In that race, American Magic emerged as the champion, beating Team New Zealand by three points—with the final race cancelled because of bad weather.

The AC40s are considered training boats that will help determine the foil shapes for the larger AC75s that will be used next year in the Louis Vuitton Cup Challenger Selection Series and later, in the final Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup Barcelona. In the October final, Emirates Team New Zealand will face the winner of the six-week-long challenger series.

Team Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand were neck and neck until the final turn, where the Italians did a nosedive.

Ian Roman/America’s Cup

The three days of racing in Jeddah were close and compelling, with the six America’s Cup teams involved in 8 fleet races. The New Zealand team won five of the eight, while Luna Rossa grabbed three. In the final standings, the Swiss Alinghi Red Bull Racing team took third place, while American Magic took fourth and Ineos Britannia was fifth. The new French team was last.

The final proved to be the event’s most exciting race, with the New Zealanders leading but being chased closely by Luna Rossa, which was co-helmed by rising star Marco Gradoni—who is only 19 years old. The race was coming down to the final mark, when the Italians veered too high around the bend, the nose of their boat submerged and the cockpit filled with water. They retired from the race.

Gradoni told stuff.co.nz that technical issues hampered the boat but also took some blame for the crash. “It was also our bad, we could do better, but that’s what happened,” Gradoni told the website.

The event in Jeddah has no official standing in the America’s Cup final, though it was a chance for the six four-man teams to compete on a racecourse to see how their boats will perform before they move to tweaking and testing the much larger and more powerful AC75s.

The event also gave Jeddah a chance to demonstrate its potential as an international yachting destination, as the gateway to a friendlier, more open Saudi Arabia, as that country attempts to position itself as the next great luxury superyacht destination. The country’s development fund, NEOM, was the sponsor of the Jeddah event, which was organized by the Jeddah Yacht Club and Marina.

NEOM is also behind the multibillion-dollar development of Sindalah, and island that the Kingdom is positioning as the ultimate superyacht destination.

America's Cup in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

The America’s Cup in front of the Jeddah waterfront as the venue tries to attract international events.

America’s Cup

The America’s Cup event is one of several high-profile international events that the Jeddah Yacht Club and Marina has sponsored this year, including the Red Sea International Film Festival, and in March, the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

“The sailing has been amazing, the venue’s been great,” said Tom Slingsby, captain for NYYC American Magic team. “Honestly this is my first time here, but I can see a lot of high-level events coming here in the future.”

Source: Robb Report

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