x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Around The World for Dubai youth sailors

More than 40 children will circumnavigate the islands to raise money for the Youth Sailing Fund.

Many of the children from Dubai Offshore Sailing Club in the race around The World hope to become Olympic or round-the-world sailors. Courtesy Kevin Larkin
Many of the children from Dubai Offshore Sailing Club in the race around The World hope to become Olympic or round-the-world sailors. Courtesy Kevin Larkin

DUBAI // An around-the-world voyage is not for the faint-hearted, especially when the sailors involved are as a young as 8 and the craft they command are single-handed dinghies.

But that is what a group of more than 40 children will attempt on Saturday … well, almost.

The young seamen will each set a course to circumnavigate The World islands off Dubai in an event being run by the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club (Dosc).

The fun race aims to raise money to help train, equip and cover expenses for the youngsters to compete in events around the real world, part of the club’s Youth Sailing Fund.

It is no mean feat for the junior sailors, as the array of 300 islands have a circumference of more than 27 kilometres.

“This is more than 10 times the distance that the youth sailing squad would cover in a normal race, and being so far out to sea they will also have to cope with bigger swells and winds,” said Francis Carr, commodore at Dosc.

“Sailing around The World is a big expedition even for a group of experienced adult sailors in large yachts, let alone children on their own in two-metre racing dinghies.”

The youngsters will be accompanied by their coaches and several safety boats. Support boats with parents and club members will also be cheering them on throughout the event.

“As a club we are really proud of our youth team to take on such an ambitious sail for a fund-raising event,” said Chris Pope, head race coach. “This was their idea. Our kids love sailing and the fact that they’re willing to sail such a long distance to raise money for the Youth Sailing Fund shows their commitment to the sport.

“Last year they sailed around The World in Optimists [small dinghies] in 5 hours and 45 minutes. This year they’re hoping to beat that record.”

Many of the children involved have ambitions to become Olympic or round-the-world sailors. About 30 per cent have already competed in the UK and Turkey, and another 30 per cent are reaching that stage.

“Our training is helping them towards that in the long term. What Saturday is great for is just learning to be a bit patient in these long races and dealing with things as they happen, with the goal of keeping moving forward,” he said.

A British competitor, Lucy Wilson, 12, has been sailing since she was a baby on her parents’ boat and has been part of the Dosc race team for three years.

In the past year she has competed in all the UAE National Championships, travelled to Turkey for an international regatta and competed in the UK National Championships. This year she will travel to Oman and Turkey and again compete in the UK National Championships.

She is not nervous about the upcoming event, but said: “The wind conditions will be a big factor. If it’s not windy it will take us a long time. If it’s too windy we’ll get tired after a while, but at least we’ll go fast.”

Every race is good experience towards her goal of being a professional sailor.

“I’d like to become a great sailor and travel around the world meeting different people. My goal is to be one of the best Optimist sailors in the world,” she said.

Matthew Hardie, 10, is British-Canadian and has been sailing since he was 5. He has raced with Dosc for two years and hopes to become an Olympic sailor.

In the past year Matthew has competed in the UAE National Championships, as well as Oman, Turkey, the UK, Malta and Qatar. In the next few months he will return to the UK, Oman and Turkey for races, as well as compete in an event on Lake Garda in Italy over Easter that features more than 1,000 sailors from around the world.

Although he is experienced, Matthew says this weekend’s race requires endurance.

“The hardest thing is being out on the water for so long. The legs are also very long, so I could be going downwind for half an hour,” he says.

“When I race, we would only sail a leg for no more than five minutes, and even that feels like a long time. The good thing about it is that it’s not a race. You can hang out with your friends and have fun along the way.”

mswan@thenational.ae