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Emirates Team New Zealand
Credit: Adam Mustill/America’s Cup

Making waves: Why the city of Jeddah has become a key destination for the 37th America’s Cup

20 September 2023 • Written by Katia Damborsky and Hannah Rankine for Jeddah Yacht Club and Marina

In a milestone moment for Jeddah, the Red Sea city is preparing to showcase its prime sailing conditions, world-leading facilities and dedication to providing opportunities to local people through the America’s Cup preliminary regatta.

The America’s Cup is the oldest sporting competition on the water, but that doesn’t mean it can’t embrace new traditions. With the second preliminary America’s Cup regatta heading for Jeddah in November 2023, the Saudi city has become the only venue outside of Spain to host a regatta in the 37th America’s Cup Cycle. The event will also be the first international yachting regatta on the Red Sea, marking a historic moment for Jeddah as well as a clear sign that the region’s sporting and boating scene is flourishing on a global level.

Competition to host the preliminary regatta is stiff, but Grant Dalton, CEO of the 37th America’s Cup and head of Emirates Team New Zealand, says that the synergy between Jeddah and the America’s Cup was felt immediately and the lengthy list of pros in Jeddah’s favour convinced them.

Grant Dalton, CEO of the 37th America’s Cup and head of Emirates Team New Zealand
Credit: James Somerset/Emirates Team New Zealand

Creating opportunities

One such advantage was Jeddah’s long-standing dedication to promoting sports and boating among local people. “The kingdom has made commitments to certain sports, one of them being water sports,” Dalton explains.

Sailing in the region is still in its infancy, but there are enormous opportunities to bolster interest in the area, according to Dalton. “When standing back and looking at the opportunity for the growth of our sport that exists in the region, it is truly significant. Seventy per cent of the country’s population is under the age of 35 years and women’s participation in sport or physical activity is up by 149 per cent in recent years. So, we have a unique chance to grow sailing and create new connections with the unprecedented sustainability projects within the Red Sea that can transform lives through sailing,” he adds.

The Saudi Sailing Federation and Ministry of Sport are in full support of this sentiment. Both organisations are working in partnership with the America’s Cup to ensure that the event will be a “catalyst” to inspire local people, as well as broadening access to the Red Sea, according to Samia Bagdady, CEO of the Saudi Sailing Federation. The federation plans to use the event to launch new initiatives too, in the hope that the regatta will be a key driver for the region’s top sailors of tomorrow to get the support and training they need to compete on a global stage.

“We will use [the preliminary regatta] to kick-start a number of new initiatives including a Discover Sailing programme to encourage people on to the water and a Performance Pathway for talented sailors to train to compete at the top level,” says Hassan Kabbani, chairman of the Saudi Sailing Federation. “It is an honour to be selected to host an America’s Cup Preliminary Regatta and to be able to showcase to the sailing community the wonderful conditions we have.”

Samia Bagdady, CEO of the Saudi Sailing Federation
Credit: Jeddah Yacht Club and Marina

City of the future

Jeddah and the wider Saudi Arabia has long established itself as a key player in the fields of technology, sustainability and pioneering modern innovations. This was part of the reason Jeddah was initially considered, but beyond that, organisers were “sincerely struck by the people of Saudi” when they began visiting the region. Dalton says that “the friendship, the honesty, the can-do attitude” compelled him to discover more about what the city had to offer. “There’s a real pioneering feeling,” says Dalton, “and a real desire to get on and do something, not just talk about it. [This] fits quite naturally with the America’s Cup and who we are.”

Credit: Adam Mustill/America’s Cup

A natural fit

On a practical level, it was Jeddah’s geographical location and unrivalled access to amenities that made it such a good fit for the preliminary regatta. The regatta will be taking place at Jeddah Yacht Club and Marina, one of the most modern and international marinas in the Red Sea. The venue has been coveting a prestigious reputation since 2021, when it successfully hosted the first Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and has continued to play host ever since. It’s a veritable superyacht hub in its own right, providing access to world-class facilities on shore and a treasure trove of undiscovered and off-the-beaten-track cruising locations at sea.

The preliminary America’s Cup regatta will get underway just a stone’s throw from the yacht club. “If you’re on the top floor of the yacht club, you’ll be looking straight down on the action,” says Dalton. The general public will have front-row seats too, with a premium line of sight from the Corniche. “It’s a kilometre and a half long, so it’ll provide a great viewing spot to watch the racing.”

Credit: Jeddah Yacht Club and Marina

As the highest level of sailing sport, there’s a feeling of honour that comes with hosting an America’s Cup regatta and Jeddah will be centre stage at the event. “As the pinnacle of sailing, I know the 37th America’s Cup and this preliminary regatta can have a positive influence on a number of fronts,” says Dalton. “We’re trailblazing in a region that’s the future of the sport, and I take immense pride in being a part of that.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Oliver Rees, general manager of Jeddah Yacht Club and Marina. “We’re very excited to be the host venue for the preliminary regatta. We have been welcoming some of the world’s most impressive superyachts and events since 2021, and this is an incredible next step, hosting the most prestigious yacht race in the world.

“We want to use the America’s Cup event as our legacy plan for the JYC academy, which will encourage Saudis to get involved with sailing, helping us build on more than 2,000 young people who took part in sailing experiences in 2022/23.”

To book your stay at Jeddah Yacht Club and Marina during the 37th America’s Cup, contact the marina today.

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