x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Fleet sets sail in race to see the race

Thirty-two boats set a course for Abu Dhabi in the Bill Nelson Memorial Race.

The competitors in the Bill Nelson Memorial Race hope to arrive in the capital in time to catch the Volvo Ocean Race In Port race.
The competitors in the Bill Nelson Memorial Race hope to arrive in the capital in time to catch the Volvo Ocean Race In Port race.

DUBAI // The largest ever fleet from the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club filled their spinnakers and set a course for Abu Dhabi yesterday.

Thirty-two sailing boats of all shapes and sizes tacked through the tame waters into an eight-knot north-westerly headwind. Among them was the Searenity, a 12.8-metre yacht. Andrew Shaw, its skipper and owner, hoped to reach the capital in good time to see the Volvo Ocean Race's In Port Race at 1pm today. Unlike the gruelling around-the-world race, the race to Abu Dhabi placed a greater emphasis on having fun.

"It's serious, but we are out for a bit of fun and I think the difference between the Volvo and our race is an extra box of beverage doesn't make as much of a difference to our weight as it would in a Volvo 70 foot," said Mr Shaw, 50.

On Friday, the crews will attend a gala dinner at the Emirates Palace hotel where the yachts will berth for the night. The fleet will sit off Lulu Island tomorrow in choppy seas to watch the restart of the Volvo Ocean Race before setting sail for a return to Dubai.

Mr Shaw took Searenity out to watch the Louis Vuitton Trophy in 2010.

"Basically, we're a bunch of friends who sail in a couple of key races this season and it is such a good opportunity to see off the Volvo Ocean Race," he said.

"Everyone is keen to see the start and be part of the event. It's a double hit. We would have done the race anyway but to see the beginning of the Volvo, even better."

However, Chris Tzanov, the skipper of the 13.1-metreBrigante, said he was interested only in racing.

"It's nice to see them, and I've seen them before, but we are in it to try to win."

The skipper of Playmate, Maarten van dar Harst, 62, said he had always sailed in the Bill Nelson Memorial Race, which usually goes as far as Sir Abu Nair island but will end at Emirates Palace this year.

"It's very good it [the Volvo race] is in Abu Dhabi. If it was in Oman, I wouldn't go. This is ideal," he said.

eharnan@thenational.ae