x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Louis Vuitton Trophy up for grabs in Dubai

Four of the fastest yachts in the world prepare to go head-to-head in a series of races.

Emirates Team New Zealand practices off the coast of Dubai yesterday in preparation for the Louis Vuitton Trophy yacht race.
Emirates Team New Zealand practices off the coast of Dubai yesterday in preparation for the Louis Vuitton Trophy yacht race.

It is not just motor racing that will be wowing the spectators and sponsors in the days ahead.

Four of the fastest and most beautiful yachts in the world are getting ready in Dubai for the start of the Louis Vuitton Trophy, which will run until November 27. Six teams, featuring the world's best sailors will be going head to head in a series of daily races.

There will even be a dhow race on November 20, the first time that dhows have been sailed by foreign crews.

"We're trying to promote modern sailing," says Sid Bensalah, the general manager of the Dubai International Marine Club at Mina Seyahi. "We quickly figured out that when you have a high-profile event like the Louis Vuitton Trophy, it's the right trigger to basically interest the community and influence the decision makers. We want to get youngsters into the sport, beside going to the shopping mall and eating junk food."

Emirates Airline is one of the major domestic sponsors. Maurice Flanagan, the executive vice chairman of The Emirates Group, says events such as this raise the profile of Dubai as a world-class sporting destination.

"With the event broadcast around the globe the spotlight will be on the UAE, showcasing our excellent event facilities and event planning," he says. "Across the years Emirates has been closely associated with sailing as sponsors of trophy-winning Emirates Team New Zealand, who will be competing here over the course of the next two weeks, as well as Sea Dubai, an RC44-type sailing boat team founded by the Dubai International Marine Club."

The City of Dubai is paying Dh20 million (US$5.4m) to host the event, hoping for international television exposure and an influx of visitors in return. "This is not a big investment for this type of event," says Mr Bensalah. "The way this event is designed is to keep the cost realistic. When you look at the cost of the America's Cup, it's another world."

About 500 people are directly involved, while the organisers are hoping that some 6,000 spectators will attend the Vuitton Trophy over the final weekend. This, of course, helps fill hotel rooms. And with luck they will also go shopping - Dubai is the only city in the world with five Louis Vuitton stores.