After an initial flutter of excitement that Malta may be making an effort to attract one of the races for sailing’s most prestigious event, it now transpires that there are no intentions to make a bid.
Interest was aroused following a visit by three-time America’s Cup winning skipper Russell Coutts and Paul Cayard the first American skipper to win the prestigious Whitbread Round the World Race in 1998, last year.
Both skippers were reported as being positively impressed with the history and locations that Malta offers particularly the Grand Harbour. Coutts said he had seen photos of the start of the Middle Sea Race and found that Valletta provided an excellent backdrop to the yachts that participated in the race.
Paul Cayard told the media he “wouldn’t rule out Malta from pre-race regattas,” and “the early indications look positive.”
Meetings were held with education minister Louis Galea and tourism minister Francis Zammit Dimech. Galea had said Government was putting a particular focus on water sports and that he personally felt that Malta being a country with so much sea around it has an enormous potential to develop. Minister Zammit Dimech said that from a tourism perspective, sailing is one of the clusters that the Malta Tourism Authority is proactively promoting.
But while Sicily went ahead and took the plunge, Malta desisted. Eyebrows were raised among Maltese sailors when it was realised that between 29 September and 9 October 2005 the world’s sailing eyes will be on the west coast of Sicily focused on Trapani. The city is set to benefit from funding amounting to EUR 84 million and the dock works are being funded by the government, with EUR62 million, to be included in the national infrastructure ministry programme. Trapani’s municipal council has allocated another EUR16 million for urban and city works, and Sicily’s Regional Government will allocate EUR4 million for the actual race organisation.
While the organisation of an America’s Cup race is a major financial drain, some cities consider the expense worthwhile because of the interest created and the tourism spin-offs.
Minister Galea has now confirmed that Malta does not intend bidding for the America’s Cup at this stage. He would not, however, reply to questions about Trapani’s participation nor whether Malta could have matched that city’s bid, despite several reminders sent to him over the past month.
The current Cup is the thirty-second and its final is due to take place in Valencia in 2007. This will be the first time in 150 years that the America’s Cup returns to Europe and the first time ever that a race that forms part of the Cup takes place in Italy.
In the meantime China Team has received its official confirmation from the Defender, the Société Nautique de Genève that it has been accepted as a bone fide challenger for the America’s Cup. The full line-up of competitors for the America’s Cup is now confirmed with 12 teams from 10 nations competing for the oldest prize in the sport.
The defender is Team Alinghi from Switzerland and the challengers are: BMW Oracle Racing of the US, France’s K-Challenge; Italy’s Luna Rossa Challenge, Team Capitalia’s Mascalzone Latino, and +39; Emirates Team New Zealand; South Africa’s Team Shosholoza; Spain’s Desafio Espanol; United Internet Team Germany and Sweden’s Victory Challenge, Qingdao International Yacht Club.