ABU DHABI // The first in a wave of new marinas in the capital was completed yesterday with the conclusion of a month-long flooding of the Yas Marina with more than 682 million litres of water. For those with a large enough yacht-and money worthy of the boat-the marina will offer some of the best views of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when the race is held in November. Up to 143 yachts are expected to be moored at the Yas Marina Circuit during the race, and are expected to carry 5,000. The marina is the first of 14 to be developed by Aldar Marinas, an offshoot of the property company that aims to transform the capital's waterfront. None, however, will be quite as exclusive as the Yas Marina. Prices for berths during the F1 week have not been revealed, but they are expected to be as high as the yachts are long: the marina will be able to accommodate yachts up to 66m in length. The month-long flooding of the marina was completed yesterday and boats will access the berths through the channel that separates Yas Island from the mainland. Paul Lane, the project director for Aldar Marinas, said the trackside marina should take its place among the most prestigious of all waterfront circuits. "The F1 race is going to be very special, certainly comparable to Monaco, and it even goes beyond that. "The biggest difference is that we here have a custom-built marina and a custom-built F1 track. Monaco is a historic race with real tradition, but we have a perfect marina with a perfect track." A soft opening of the marina will happen in the month before the race on Nov 1. Berths will be rented out for the whole grand prix week only, although shorter stays will be available once the race is over. Boat owners will also be able to purchase a year-long stay at the marina, prices for which have not been disclosed. Mr Lane said: "This is the first of our marinas - we have 14 planned that will be gradually rolled out with our developments. "It is very much our flagship - this is the extra-luxury end of the market. Not only do you have the largest vessels, but you have the Yas Marina Hotel and the yacht club and the F1 race on an annual basis. "But luxury is not our only focus. We will be building other facilities to cope with all kinds of vessels." The marina, which is six metres deep, is the first major element of the Yas Marina Circuit to be completed. Electricity will be connected in the coming weeks, allowing yachts to access the power grid. Aldar said the largest yachts were expected to consume as much power as a small tower block. At present, there are only four marinas in Abu Dhabi - the Wagih Mansour Marine Club and those at the InterContinental, Al Bateen and Marina Mall. Next to come online will be Al Bandar Marina, part of Al Raha Beach development near Yas Island. The 103-berth marina is expected to open next year. Others will be completed over the next decade. The Nareel Island marina, near the Emirates Palace hotel, will host up to 160 boats. Complementing the newest marina on Yas Island will be the Yas Cays, which will comprise four marinas and close to 900 berths. Targeted at visitors, another facility, Al Gurm marina, will open among the mangroves on the western side of Abu Dhabi island. Marcus Kirchner, 48, who lives aboard a 40ft Van Der Stadt Norman sailing yacht in the capital, said the news would come as a great relief to boat owners in the UAE. "It's good news, for sure. The lack of available berths is one of the big issues here," said the construction contract manager, who keeps his yacht at the Wagih Mansour Marine Club, formerly known as the Abu Dhabi Marina. "There are just no available berths anywhere in the country. People who live in Dubai and Abu Dhabi end up having to leave their boats in places like Fujairah because it is the only marina with any space." Mabrouk Mohammed Ali, general manager of the Wagih Mansour Marine Club, agreed: "This is great news for Abu Dhabi. There is a huge shortage of space for berths in Abu Dhabi. "I get four or five calls a week from people trying to find a berth but we can't help them. "We are full to capacity and have a waiting list with about 12 names on it. "We need more and more marinas to be opened. I know the authorities are building new marinas but it takes time for them to be completed. "This is a step in the right direction." While many of the forthcoming marina developments will cater for residents, others, such as the Yas Marina, will target visitors. Mr Lane said: "Outside of the F1, you will be able to come along for a day or even for the afternoon. We are very conscious of attracting visitors and destination yachting. We want to encourage more life on the water." The waterborne racegoers will have access to an exclusive yacht club, and each boat will have its own concierge while on Yas Island. Leading yacht brands, brokers and chandlers will be within walking distance of the boats. Mr Lane said: "Demand is extremely high. We are still negotiating over rates, but the Middle East market is one that international companies are still looking at because they still see life there." Although it is the first component of Yas Island to be completed, the new marina was finished six months later than initially planned, said Lee Kandalaft, the deputy director of infrastructure on the island. Work had already started last August when it was decided to build one half of the five-star Yas Marina Hotel in the middle of the marina itself. A tunnel was bored between the hotel on the water and the second half which sits on the edge of the water, and further defences were installed. Water from the Gulf was pumped into the marina at an overall depth of 20-30cm a day over the last month, so pontoons placed on the floor rose gradually with the water. It is the first time in the UAE for a marina to be built and then flooded, a model that will be the exception rather than the rule of marina building in the country. "Until we flooded the marina less than a month ago, we still had cars and trucks driving around inside," said Mr Kandalaft. email@example.com
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