The third Al Gharbia Water Sports Festival, a 10-day extravaganza with a variety of sports, including sailing, wakeboarding and beach football on the sand and water, starts tomorrow.
All out at sea over next 10 days
ABU DHABI // Excitement is already building among competitors for the third Al Gharbia Water Sports Festival, a 10-day extravaganza with a variety of sports, including sailing, wakeboarding and beach football, on the sand and sea from tomorrow until April 2.
Initiated by the Western Region Development Council (WRDC) and organised by the Abu Dhabi Motor Sports Club, the event is expected to draw more than 100,000 spectators to watch high-profile competitors in the various sporting disciplines vying for a slice of a Dh1 million prize fund.
"It is a great mix of fun and competition," said Mohammed Rashid Shaheen, an Emirati sailor. "I took part in the traditional rowing boat and modern sail race in both festivals and have done a lot of hard work to improve and try to win some events in this competition.
"I can take this as another opportunity to compete with some of the local sailors as well as those from the expatriate community and those flying down from other countries especially for the festival."
"It was great fun with my friends but I thought I can be more competitive and win some events if I trained a bit harder."
One of the big draws will be the kayak races in which Chantelle Howes last year led a top-three finish for South Africa in the women's championship.
Recently, Howes posted on her Facebook page: "Looking forward to winning some prize money this year. Watch out girls!"
Mohammed Hamad bin Azzan al Mazrouei, the director general of WRDC, said the success achieved by the Al Gharbia Water Sports Festival over the past two years has helped enhance the region's position as a premier local and regional tourism and sporting destination.
"Al Gharbia has become a meeting place for thousands of visitors and water sport fans who come from the country and abroad," he said at yesterday's launch at the Emirates Palace hotel. "This prestigious event is part of our efforts to meet the ambitions of our leadership for this region." According to Obaid Khalfan al Mazrouei, the festival manager, international participants will join Emiratis and the expatriate community in the beach football, beach volleyball, kiteboarding, surf-ski kayaking, wakeboarding, heritage and modern sailing and swimming.
"A number of heritage and popular activities will be organised on the sidelines of the festival to enhance its appeal to different social and age groups," said al Mazrouei.
"The festival is expected to have about 100,000 visitors this year from the country and the region, a double-digit growth as compared to the 50,000 in its inaugural year in 2009 and 70,000 last year."
The event has also shown an increase in the number of the participating countries, with 13 countries confirmed so far. "This reflects the excellent reputation established by the festival on the local, regional and international levels and the importance of the region as a unique tourism destination," said Ahmed Thani Murshid al Rumaithi, the president of the Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club.
"We are still receiving entries for both the traditional and modern sailing. We have already received 20 entries for the traditional 22-feet dhows and expecting more in the modern sail boat category.
"It is also a grand opportunity for the Emirati sailors to pit their skills against some of the visiting sailors. There are also very skilled expatriates that will make all the sailing events very competitive."