High winds made for rough seas but organisers of the Abu Dhabi Open Regatta decided to go ahead with the event, minus the small boats, and the sailors are glad they did.
Abu Dhabi Open Regatta determined to stay on course
ABU DHABI // The Abu Dhabi Open Regatta will grow in stature and eventually attain international status after the inaugural event was launched in far from ideal conditions in the capital on Friday.
The windy opening-day event saw Mike Jelf's Not So Pennyless cross the finishing line first in the IRC (International Regatta Committee) Class-One, and Phillipe Saad and Jane Daly sailed to victory on Lady Marmalade in the Class-Two at the Emirates Palace Marina.
Saad, the skipper, said, despite very strong wind conditions and choppy seas, he was glad the regatta went ahead, after earlier rumours of cancellation, and praised the organisers.
"These conditions were above the normal average," he said.
"But I'm very pleased that the race committee has taken the decision to go ahead with the regatta.
"We were under no illusion that it was not going to be plain sailing, especially after we broke the spinnaker halyard after the first hoist [of the sail].
"They were very challenging races, with huge demands on the crew and the boat.
"We were very lucky that we managed to bring the yacht on time from Dubai, before the strong winds and heavy seas increased. This was the first sailing regatta for our team in Abu Dhabi, and we were humbled by the gracious hospitality of the organisers. I'm somewhat surprised that more yachts did not come from Dubai to compete, but the weather forecast was not ideal for the delivery. We are glad that we manage to achieve the first places, and looking forward to another great yacht race in Abu Dhabi tomorrow and next year."
Miguel Contreras, the IRC race co-ordinator, said boats from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and one from Turkey took part in yesterday's races, and he is confident, through promotion, the event can be taken forward in the future.
"The races have been running for years, but just with dinghies, which are the smaller boats for one or two persons, and for the first time we raced the yachts, the bigger boats that can have four to 14 sailors onboard," he said.
"The objective is to promote this race series in the years to come and for it to eventually be recognised internationally. Obviously it takes time, but what was important is that we have made a start.
"Abu Dhabi is an ideal location to promote sailing internationally, with the support and the backing from the local authorities.
"The facilities here are fantastic and more importantly we have the boat owners and the sailors, both expatriates and Emiratis, to help us take this sport to the next level."
The Abu Dhabi Open Regatta was scheduled to race in three different divisions, the Class-One and Class-Two, and the non-spinnaker class, but the race committee decided not to run the latter race, for smaller boats, due to safety fears in the high winds.
"We have a special rating for each boats and the bigger boat will pay in time to a smaller boat," Contreras said.
"We have the same programme for [Saturday] plus a coastal race around Lulu Island, where boats will be sailing along the Corniche for everyone to have a good view."