ABU DHABI // A new sailing club is about to be launched in Abu Dhabi and will feature up to 10 competitive events across the spectrum of the sport in its first year.
The Abu Dhabi International Sailing and Yachting Club has been set up under the patronage of Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, and will cater for the demands of traditional and modern sailors of all nationalities and abilities.
The organisation will be funded initially by the sports council who are understood to have underwritten funds of Dh1 million which will go towards prize money and the organisation of races.
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A yachting regatta for the Abu Dhabi Cup is planned for April 15-16 with an open catamaran race scheduled for May 27-28. Other events are being arranged for the cooler period in the autumn.
Ahmed al Romaithi, the club chairman, is excited by the venture which he believes will provide another boost to maritime sport in the emirate in a year when the Volvo Ocean Race is due for a first stopover here at the end of December.
One of the principal aims is to try to provide ways for sailors to boost their funding to continue the traditions created by the pearl fishing industry of previous generations.
It is planned to have six races for the wooden dhows - three in the 60-foot class, the other three for 44-footers.
"The prize money will be weighted in favour of the traditional classes because they are the most expensive to run," al Romaithi said. "Sometimes there are as many as 14 crew members on the bigger dhows, as opposed to a single yachtsman in one of the modern classes."
"But we are still planning to provide opportunities for those modern sailors to compete at a high level and we want those sailors to be part of this new club, whether they be local, expatriate or international. Everybody is welcome here."
His vice chairman is Ateeq Saif Alsuwaidi, who is the main spokesman for the organising committee. Alsuwaidi's emphasis is on "participation" as he strives to make the new club a social hub of the sailing community.
He said: "Most of people who attend water sports meetings are spectators. We want to change that so the majority of them are participants. It doesn't matter whether they are experts or novices, there is a place for them here."
Alsuwaidi said the aim of the new club was to become self-sufficient by the end of its first competitive year, partly from members' subscriptions, which he says will not be prohibitively high.
"We want to attract people to join us, so we must not make it too expensive for them," he said.
"The long-term plan is to make this a platform for creating a sailing team who could one day represent the country in the Olympic Games. We appreciate that will take time, however, and that's a long way into the future."
The first step towards that objective will be to relocate the National Training School from their headquarters at Al Raha Beach.
There is no membership list yet but new members will have the choice of using boats supplied by the club or using their own.
The new venture was welcomed by Barry Jarman, who is commodore of Abu Dhabi's original sailing club based at The Club at Mina Zayed
"This new yacht club has been a long time coming," said Jarman, 43, a native of Sydney who has sailing experience all over the world.
Jarman, who sits on the technical committee for the UAE Sailing Federation, has been advocating the creation of such a club since 2007 and has been instrumental in the setting up of the new organisation.
Jarman expects the new club to make swift progress towards being acclaimed as an attractive international venue.
"It will take several years to develop," he said, mindful that the headquarters in the interim period will be at Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club until a permanent residence has been built near to the Heritage Centre.
"The new club will be capable of being able to host international regattas before long. We could host the laser world championships in front of Lulu Island.
"Eventually, once the club is established with a marina for keel boats, we will be able to look towards staging events for boats like the RC44s.
"It should also become a home for yachting in the European winter season. Abu Dhabi offers ideal conditions at a time when European sailors look to escape the freezing temperatures in their homelands. I welcome this club unequivocally. It is the best thing to happen to UAE sailing in a long time."