DUBAI // Some of the world's leading yachtsmen played second fiddle yesterday to Emirati sailors in a spectacular dhow race between two of Dubai's most famous landmarks.
Billed as Heritage Day, the race from Atlantis to the Burj Al Arab gave the six crews contesting the Louis Vuitton Trophy at Dubai International Marine Club a kind of busman's holiday on their only leisure day of an exhausting two-week meeting.
The French-German crew of All-4One adapted best to the transition from the state-of-the-art monohulls they have been sailing for the past week to the vintage wooden craft that are a vital part of UAE maritime history.
Sultan Harib, son of Saeed Harib, the chief executive of the host club, was one of the local experts on the winning dhow, and he was astonished at the adaptability of the international colleagues who sailed with him.
"It was amazing how quickly they learned," said Harib of Jochen Schumann, All-4One's skipper, and his crew. "They knew exactly what to do from the first few minutes. They were so slick in what for them were unfamiliar conditions."
The All4One team were exhilarated by their success and celebrated wildly as they edged out the local favourites, Emirates Team New Zealand, in a 7km downwind race which lasted about 40 minutes.
"You need to come out of the starting blocks fast in a race like this one," Schumann said.
"We picked a good angle and it worked well for us."
Just behind Team New Zealand in third place were BMW Oracle Racing, the America's Cup winners, while the Swedish entry of Artemis claimed fourth place comfortably ahead of Mascalzone Latino Audi and Synergy.
It was anything but plain sailing for the No 60 dhow occupied by Gavin Brady, 10 of his Mascalzone crew mates and six Emirati sailors. Brady was obliged to take a watching brief as enthusiastic locals barked out the tacking instructions.
"Perhaps they had heard about our crash on the first day and didn't want me steering such an historic old boat," said Brady, who is still smarting from the controversial starting-line collision he had with Team New Zealand on the opening day of the Louis Vuitton regatta.
"That could make the difference between whether or not we qualify for the semi-finals and if it turns out that it costs us qualification then I will leave here convinced we were victims of a stitch-up."
Brady is hopeful that he and his colleagues can recover from their poor start, and he was encouraged by the collection of two points on Friday from his first match of the second round-robin series.
"It's not been our best regatta but we are improving steadily here," said Brady, an experienced New Zealand campaigner.
"We are known as the Italian rascals who love a good scrap and we have certainly got one on our hands here. If we can just keep going and squeeze into the semi-finals then you never know how it all could turn out for us."