December 06, 2015

SAN DIEGO (AP) America's Cup racing will come to the Middle East for the first time when the America's Cup World Series is sailed in Muscat, Oman, on Feb. 27-28.

It's a surprising choice, considering that American billionaire Larry Ellison opposed the region as the venue for the 2010 America's Cup, citing in part safety concerns because of its proximity to Iran.

Teams from the United States, France and England are part of the America's Cup World Series circuit, a series of regattas leading up to the 2017 America's Cup in Bermuda.

''Security is and always will be a concern for all major events and is not limited to sport,'' America's Cup official Harvey Schiller said in an email to The Associated Press. ''Certainly all are giving greater concern based on recent events. Oman has successfully conducted several recent events.

We've been working with security professionals for all of our events.''

Ellison didn't immediately return an email seeking comment. He owns two-time America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA.

In 2009, Oracle was able to keep Alinghi of Switzerland from defending the America's Cup in Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates. Some of Oracle's concerns had to do with keeping Alingi from gaining certain competitive advantages, but Ellison raised the safety issue.

''I'm a little bit concerned because it's less than 100 miles from Iran, so we're all concerned about the safety of our crew and our shore crew and everyone getting set up there,'' Ellison said during a team event in San Diego in 2009. Oracle was able to force Alinghi to sail the match in Valencia, Spain, and the U.S.-backed crew won.

Representatives of Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing of Britain and Emirates Team New Zealand said they weren't concerned.

''Honestly as Kiwis it's not something we worry unduly about,'' Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton said in an email.

''We are delighted to be going to Oman,'' Jo Grindley, a spokesman for Ainslie, said in an email. ''A number of the team have sailed extensively in Oman and are looking forward to getting racing again next February.''

She said the team had ''no safety concerns.''

America's Cup officials are looking to reap commercial benefits from sailing in Oman.

The America's Cup World Series has already scheduled a stop in Chicago in June, and could soon announce regattas in New York and Tokyo.


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