There may be precious few sailing yachts on the horizon when you gaze out to sea from the Corniche, but that will change on New Year's Eve, when a fleet of the fastest and sexiest ocean racing boats sail into Abu Dhabi.
They are taking part in the Volvo Ocean Race and will be arriving for a couple of weeks' jamboree that will include races, events and the occasional party.
Helping to make this happen is David Hassett, the commercial director of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. As well as hosting a stopover, Abu Dhabi has its own yacht competing in the race, complete with at least one Emirati crew member.
Mr Hassett, 40, hails from Cork in the south of Ireland and grew up almost in a dinghy, sailing from the age of seven. He crewed in the Admiral's Cup, one of the pinnacles of amateur yachting, and represented Ireland at the World Youth Championships. He took a degree in arts and sociology at University College Cork, and worked in IT for a couple of years before going to live in Australia on the recommendation of a man he had met on a boat. After five years as an institutional stockbroker, he returned to Dublin in 1999 at the peak of the dotcom boom and worked in the motor trade for eight years with Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Seat.
In 2007, his phone rang and a friend offered him an intriguing proposition. "Do you want to help us raise money for an Irish entry into the Volvo Ocean Race and have a stopover in Galway?" he was asked. He did, and thus turned a passion into a profession. The Green Dragon boat, which became an Irish and Chinese joint entry, started the race as underdog, but managed to snag three podium finishes. For the Irish tourism board, which sponsored the boat, the entry was a great success.
We asked him how he expected to replicate that formula this time around, why having a boat and a stopover is such a "winning commercial proposition", and why one would be involved in such an event in the first place.
What exactly is your involvement with the boat?
Our job is to look after the performance side of the project. We had met the Abu Dhabi people in Stockholm during the previous race and there was then a bid process, which we won in June of last year. We run the race team over a two-year period with the sole objective of finishing on the podium and doing well in the race.
But if you're commercial director responsible for raising money, and you've already raised the money from the Abu Dhabi Government, shouldn't you be spending the next two years on a sun-lounger?
Yes, but it's not just about collecting the cash. It's how that cash is used, the activation, the management of that investment commercially is where I come in. The challenge is when somebody invests in a project like this they have economic objectives. How is the brand perceived around the world and how does that translate into increased tourism for Abu Dhabi? It's my job to ensure that the billboard is effective. Everywhere the boat goes, the name Abu Dhabi goes and it becomes synonymous.
How do you make a race entry and a commercial stopover a success?
For Tourism Ireland it made a great deal of sense. We understand the mechanics of why a tourism board would get involved in the Volvo Ocean Race. It taps into a number of key markets for Abu Dhabi. It is harder to get tourist dollars than it used to be, so you have to work your markets harder. We spend a lot of time engaging with the tourism office. The aim of the game is to create Abu Dhabi as a "winter watersports destination". With that in mind, they are using the Volvo Ocean Race and the stopover in Abu Dhabi to promote it as a destination.
All I see on the water now is jet skis. You want to get people sailing?
This is a long-term proposition. It is a five-year programme and the authorities have committed to two terms of the race. It is coming from a low base but we are hoping to get children, locals and expatriates sailing on the water. The location and demographic lends itself to that. If it's a healthy sport in the UK and Ireland, to get people to do it here is a no-brainer. The Volvo Ocean Race brings in the wow factor. It's a game-changer. But very hard to achieve in one go at the race, it will need two at least. It's a big challenge, but bringing the Volvo to town should inspire everybody and raise the awareness of marine tourism.
What are the returns for Abu Dhabi?
There are three elements: the economic impact, branding and exposure and whether we are able to leave something of a legacy. The key is they don't just look at a concrete patch on the Corniche once the boats leave and ask: what happened here?
Where is the race most popular?
It goes to nine or 10 destinations, and the reception varies. Cities where sailing is not a popular sport tend to embrace it most, don't ask me why. The event brings a festival to town that is accessible for free to the public. There will also be in-port races as well as a pro-am, rather like in a golf tournament in which amateurs can play with the professionals.
Is it expensive running the team?
It is a significant sum. The hardware is expensive and the software is even more expensive. It's a big project and you are at the top end of technology. But what you get for your money is even bigger. As a business-to-business proposition it's unique. There's enough evidence to suggest that you get your money back and then some. Why not come down to the Corniche on New Year's Eve and see for yourself?