x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

RAK's sailing ambitions buoyed in Hungary

In the aftermath of a good performance in a world catamaran championship, Ras Al Khaimah is setting itself up to be a sailing hub.

Ras al Khaimah is one step closer to becoming a regional sailing hub after an impressive performance in Hungary during the weekend.

A Royal Yacht Club of Ras al Khaimah-sponsored catamaran, crewed by the Dutchmen Mischa Heemskerk and Bastiaan Tentij, came second in the F18 Multihull World Championships on Lake Balaton.

The second team, crewed by Conrad Schwindt of Abu Dhabi and Marja Van Helden of the Netherlands, finished midway down the field, 50th out of 100 competitors.

Bringing home trophies will get more people interested in sailing, said Alan Linnitt, manager of Al Hamra Marina and Royal Yacht Club.

His group wants to involve more Emirati children in sailing.

"Because of their strong heritage with the sea, it would be easier for them to accept sailing and sports on the water," Mr Linnitt said.

Catamaran sailing is the easiest to learn, he said, and is a gateway to other classes of sailing.

"It's the easiest one we can do at the moment and it's an accessible sport here in Ras al Khaimah. [Newcomers] can get hooked on it quickly because it can be learnt fast and have a good time while doing it.

"If it's team sailing, it takes forever to learn all the individual roles. You can learn this in an hour."

The location of Al Hamra sailing club is ideal, he said. In 2009, it was scheduled to be a venue for the America's Cup but was left high and dry amid a dispute among yacht owners. The club's site offers a shallow, calm harbour and a wind which is ideal for most sailing conditions.

Mr Linnitt said the club hoped to attract other races this year or next.

"It is our aim to put Ras al Khaimah on the map as a sailing destination. We have the best venue in the Middle East when it comes to sailing, we have the infrastructure, the weather, the resources and facilities for all," he said, as well as the ability to hold premier events such as the catamaran world championships.

Sailing has gained in popularity. Last year, Dubai held the Louis Vuitton Trophy. This December 31, the Volvo around-the-world yacht race will sail into Abu Dhabi. The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority has a yacht in the race which will have one Emirati crew member.

eharnan@thenational.ae