ABU DHABI // The superyachts are again docked in Yas Marina for the fourth Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but it is the smaller boats making the bigger impression.
The 103-metre Loalout al Beharm, the 85-metre Delma and the 90.6-metre Dubawi dominate Abu Dhabi’s flagship event.
But Cedric Le Rest, general manager of Yas Marina, says the event has become more popular with smaller boat owners who also want to be part of the action.
Mr Le Rest said there were 20 per cent more boats moored for the race this year.
“We’ve had a bit less foreign-flagged boats coming in to the marina,” he said. “If you count the GCC like Kuwait and Oman it’s more. Out of the 175 boats 10 are foreign flagged.”
The 10 GCC boats are not counted as foreign flagged vessels.
For the first Grand Prix, about 30 per cent of the boats in the marina flew a foreign flag.
“It was the first year and everybody was a bit excited,” Mr Le Rest said. “What we have noticed, business has started to pick up slowly compared with the previous year. Lots of the big foreign flags were chartered out during the summer [in Europe] and heavily used. After the season, they went to the shipyard for maintenance and refits. The charter business is not as big as last year in Europe.”
He said even though race fans on the larger yachts will entertain themselves on board, those on the smaller boats will take advantage of the surrounding restaurants and facilities and will help create a party atmosphere. “It’ll be busier here this year,” he added.
Edward Bowen will start to watch the weekend’s action from his 14.6-metre boat, Nirvana, which does not have a track view.
The 34-year-old Briton attended the previous three Grands Prix and was expecting the same energy this year. “We will watch it on the big screen,” he said.
His modest vessel takes advantage of the marina wi-fi and other gadgets. Ipads can pick up the live feed using a Formula One app and he and his companions can get commentary from portable televisions. Sound will feed into the boat speakers.
When the race fans want to get close to the cars, they will watch from the side of the track where pontoon pass holders can go.
“The area around the marina is quiet loud,” he said. “Obviously, you don’t get an appreciation for the sound the cars make unless you’re at the venue.
“It’s like you’re in awe of it the first time you see it. The camera doesn’t always capture it.
Mr Bowen had reserved a balcony table at the Yas Viceroy the past two years.
“It’s where the first corner into the bridge is and you are looking down at the cars from the terrace and that was just amazing,” he said. “It’s something we look forward to. We start planning as soon as we leave the Grand Prix and say should we do this again the next year.”
Previously, fans needed passes to get to the marina but this year it is open to the public.
It will be the third Grand Prix for Phil Ellerby, who has moored his 11.3-metre sailboat, Wanderlust.
The Briton, 60, said he was booked into the restaurant for the three days to watch the race but chose his berth earlier this year so he would be in front of the big screen.
“We have lunch each day and then we go back to the boat and watch the racing. It is infinitely better on the boat,” he said. “It’s a fabulous location, fantastic atmosphere and the service and the quality at the marina is off the scale. It’s party central.”
Mr Le Rest invited all race fans to come down to the marina. “Obviously don’t expect to come with your car but anyone can come and sit at Stars and Bars, Yas Marina Lounge or Cipriani and the take in the view and the atmosphere.”
A view of the race cars will be difficult from the marina itself, and some boat owners will have watch the action on big screens or from the Yas Hotel, which is also open to the public this weekend.
Reservations are required on Saturday and Sunday. Ticket holders are required to make a booking at the hotel’s restaurants to watch the action.