ABU DHABI // Another piece of the preparations for the capital's first Formula One Grand Prix drifted into place yesterday as the first yacht moored at Yas Marina. The 73m MY Rabdan was the first vessel to be berthed, with more expected to arrive this week. Ousama Ghannoum, the marketing and media director at Aldar, which built the F1 track and facilities, said the excitement among staff was palpable.
"They were very excited, especially the people who operate the marina. You have no idea," he said. "They were jumping up and down, literally. It was a celebration. [The staff] waited for them and greeted them." Mr Ghannoum did not disclose the owner of the private vessel, which was described in a statement as a royal yacht, but said its arrival would herald the beginning of the marina's soft launch.
"You can't just open this thing two or three days before. This is a test launch," he said. The Yas Marina was flooded in June and is expected to berth 143 yachts for the race, which will take place on November 1. Aldar said it expected 5,000 people to view the race from the decks of vessels moored in the marina. "If the boat is low, they probably won't be able to see the whole race," Mr Ghannoum said. "If there is a deck, probably yes, because the cars pass through the marina."
He said the marina would become an integral part of the race. At the Grand Prix in Monte Carlo, where spectators also can view the action from their yachts, captains often beep their boat horns as the race begins. "I hope they will do it here." The marina holds 150 million gallons of water, which were pumped into the six-metre-deep basin at a rate of up to 30cm a day. Seven hotels are due to open on the island ahead of the race on November 1, which is expected to attract some 50,000 tourists.