ABU DHABI // Adil Khalid, the pin-up boy of Emirati sailing, was Egypt-bound soon after leading the All Emirati Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club team to victory in the inaugural match race at the capital's Breakwater yesterday.
The 23 year old will compete in the laser class in the Arab Sailing Championship in Egypt that also began yesterday and will conclude on Friday.
But before boarding the plane, Khalid used all his experience and expertise to win the opening race of the Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club's curtain raiser event of the season.
"It was a very exciting race with nine teams across the Emirates competing against each other. We are very pleased with the result, which means a pretty good start for us this season," Khalid said.
The host team emerged winners from Dubai Sports Club. The Emirates Heritage Club were third in the nine-team race in which each team race against the other on two boats. The team that finished with the highest points was declared the winner.
Khalid, who joined the professional crew of Azzam - theAbu Dhabi-sponsored boat in this year's Volvo Ocean Race - has a long-term ambition to win a medal at the 2016 Olympics.
"Sailing is my full-time job and one needs to be doing it full time to be on top of the game. I am fortunate to get that opportunity," Khalid said.
The Emirati was also the first Arab sailor to compete in an Olympic Games when he made it to Beijing in 2008.
"It was a great experience too," he said. "There are several races in my radar in the lead up to the next Olympics. I have enough experience and will definitely be better prepared.
"The Asian Games and the qualification races for the ISAF [International Sailing Association and Federation] World Championships are a few major races I would be targeting in the coming years."
Khalid hopes the experience of working on Azzam will stand him in good stead.
"When you work alongside a professional crew as in Azzam, it becomes so much easier when it comes to smaller boats and local competitions like the one we just completed," he said.
"But that experience doesn't guarantee success in sailing. We started the match race by winning the first three races and lost the fourth, very narrowly though. We made a few mistakes but that's how sailing is."
Khalid will have a full schedule drawn up when he returns from Egypt and that includes a shot at the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea and the World Championships in Spain in the same year
"I have had discussions with our club and given my opinion and ideas for the season ahead," he said.
"They were very happy to hear my side of the story and I am very hopeful of a positive feedback from them. And of course they have backed me to the full and I have no doubt they will continue to support me."
Khalid said he was glad to share his experience and knowledge with fellow Emiratis.
"The time I spent with a professional crew in the Volvo Ocean Race has given me the confidence and the experience to do better things on the smaller boats," he said. "It is good experience for them and I am also enjoying teaching them and helping each other. It is great when we have nine teams and racing each other in this inaugural event."
Khalid believes UAE sailing will have a bigger representation and more medal prospects at the Olympic in 2016.
"There are some very talented young Emirati sailors and they are well versed in several disciplines, like kite surfing and so on," he said.
Abdulla Al Shehhi, the head of media and marketing of the club, said they were testing the waters by holding the match race.
"It is very popular event in countries where sailing is well established," he said. "We wanted to have a trial and it has been a real success with nine boats, including two from Dubai and one from Ras Al Khaimah. This event can only become better next season."
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