ABU DHABI // Alastair Tate, a pilot with Emirates Airline, produced a blistering take-off at the moment of truth to win the Abu Dhabi Sailing Club's laser regatta yesterday.
Tate, a New Zealand expatriate who represents Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, came off just the better in a fierce battle with the UAE's leading yachtsman, Adil Khalid, over two days of competition in the waters off The Club at Mina Zayed.
Light winds reduced the programme from an intended eight races to only five, much to the frustration of Khalid, who has been selected to represent his country as a member of the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team for the forthcoming Volvo round-the-world race.
"One more race and I would have beaten him," said Khalid, a 22-year-old Emirati whose preparations for this event were interrupted by his rigorous training for the Volvo voyage. The nine-month race embarks from the Spanish port of Alicante in October and includes a stop in Abu Dhabi.
Khalid, needing to win the concluding race to beat Tate, was the victim of an untidy start as he lost ground to nearly all of his rivals in the scramble to get over the line quickly.
"That made all the difference," he said. "I was nearly last and had so much ground to make up. I got past all but two of the boats but [Tate] was too far ahead of me and I couldn't catch up."
Tate, 34, originally from Auckland, was delighted with his latest success in what he regarded to be an enjoyable regatta. He won three of the races and finished second in the other two.
"It was all on in that last race which made for an exciting finish," he said. "I was happy when they called time on the event after the second race. They were talking about running a third race but the wind dropped as we were finishing the second so I was pleased that they chose not to."
The top two sailors finished well clear of their rivals in the Standard Class. Joss Thorne, of Abu Dhabi International Marine and Sailing Club, took third place on countback, ahead of one of the representatives of the host club, Amer Hamzi, after both had claimed 15 points.
The supporting Radial class produced a clean sweep for Emirates Sailing School, who sent 14 young yachtsmen to the regatta. Saeed Salem al Zaidi edged his brother, Tallal, by one point with their club mate Hamdan Abid al Balouchi a further three points behind in third. It was a similar tale in the 4.7 junior class with Emirates Sailing School members filling the top four places. Hamood Salem al Zaidi took the honours with five points, two better than Saif al Naimi.
There were only two competitors for the 4.7 senior - both from Emirates Sailing School - with Saif Ibrahim al Hammadi winning all five races to beat his brother Omar.
"They managed to do really well," said Omar Bazari, the national team manager. "It was a good experience for all of our members and we are so pleased with the results."
Barry Jarman, the commodore of Abu Dhabi Sailing Club, was happy with the competition that he and his colleagues have revived after a four-year gap from the sailing calendar. But he but was disappointed by the lack of wind, which delayed the start yesterday by over four hours.
"You can't do anything about the weather - that's sailing," said Jarman who finished fourth in his category. "The main thing is that we have run a successful regatta and put our club back on the map.
"Now that this meeting has been re-established it will become an annual event on the last week of February - that's guaranteed from now on."
Abdullah al Obaidly, secretary-general of the UAE Sailing and Rowing Federation, praised the organisers for their staging of the four-category regatta. "This has been a very welcome addition to our fixture list and it has produced sailing of a very high standard," he said.
Ian Walker, skipper of the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team who has spent several years as a laser sailor, presented the prizes and uttered a telling aside to Khadil at the presentation ceremony: "No more second prizes."