x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Volvo Ocean Race to rekindle the Emirati love of the sea

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Eugene Harnan

ABU DHABI // Organisers are hoping the Volvo Ocean Race will spark an interest in sailing among younger Emiratis.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, the UAE's entry into the round-the-world yacht race, will have the Emirati Adil Khalid on board as the first Arab to compete in the race.

"The legacy will come out of Adil Khalid," said Barri Harmsworth, the technical consultant at the UAE Sailing and Rowing Federation.

Mr Khalid's main role would be to build up a bigger interest in sailing among his compatriots, Mr Harmsworth said.

"Once he sails into Abu Dhabi and under the local spotlight, he has to speak out loud about sailing and get a chance to speak publicly about what he's done," he said. "He is already a role model among Emiratis."

Mr Khalid represented the UAE in sailing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

But it will not be the UAE's first taste of world-class sailing. The 1998 International World Sailing Championships was held in Dubai, which also hosted last year's Louis Vuitton Trophy.

The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which is funding the capital's hosting of the event and the UAE's boat, expects 100,000 people over two weeks.

"This, we hope, will be the start of a renaissance in the uptake of sailing locally," said Mubarak al Muhairi, the director general of the ADTA and managing director of the Tourism Development and Investment Corporation.

"The sea is in our blood and we want to encourage residents, nationals and expatriates alike, to get out on to the water."

Toby Haws, the manager of Emirates Palace Marina, said the race would create an interest in yachting in much the same way as the 2007 Gulf Cup Final, which the UAE hosted and won, did for football.

"Domestic football gained more fans who previously didn't watch football," Mr Haws said.

"The hosting and winning of that title brought more spotlight on the domestic football league, with coverage from the local media."

eharnan@thenational.ae