x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Waiting on the wind at Al Gharbia Watersports Festival

Al Gharbia Watersports Festival organisers say they are hoping for a north-west force of 18 knots.

The kitesurfing portion of Al Gharbia Watersports Festival will likely be held over two weekends from April 18, and other sports that don't depend on the wind will be spread across the 10-day festival. Mike Young / The National
The kitesurfing portion of Al Gharbia Watersports Festival will likely be held over two weekends from April 18, and other sports that don't depend on the wind will be spread across the 10-day festival. Mike Young / The National

ABU DHABI // Jakub Szczesny will be watching the weather like a hawk for the next 10 days.

The director of kitesurfing races at the Al Gharbia Watersports Festival, which begins today, will be hoping for kind winds.

“We worry a lot over the wind conditions,” Mr Szczesny said. “But the last three events, we had good wind.”

While the water is expected to be dead calm tomorrow morning, forecasters expect the wind to pick up by lunchtime and Mr Szczesny is confident he will be able to give the go-ahead for the freestyle kitesurfing event.

More than 60 kitesurfers are depending on the predicted stiff breeze for Friday.

The ideal wind is a north-westerly of 18 knots.

“We expect winds of up to 16 to 18 knots by Friday afternoon so we will be able do the freestyle then,” Mr Szczesny said. “We have yet to get the forecast for the following weekend.”

The strength of the wind will also determine when and how far the kitesurfers will compete in the sprint course.

Last year it was strong enough for an almost 13-kilometre race.

Mr Szczesny said the sprint needed wind of more than 10 knots that lasted between 25 and 40 minutes.

Xavier Sedaghat, a Frenchman taking part in the race, said he would bring a range of kites from Dubai to make sure he had the best one for the conditions.

Mr Sedaghat, 30, has competed in Europe, but this will be his first Al Gharbia festival.  He expects to use his 18-metre kite, which is perfect for racing in low wind.

“They are more technical to ride and the way they catch the wind is very different [to smaller kites],” Mr Sedaghat said.

For the freestyle competition, he will need a smaller kite to impress a panel of judges with his tricks.

“Depending on the wind, if it’s good enough I’ll go for freestyle,”  Mr Sedaghat said.

The popularity of the sport has exploded in the UAE over the past few years, he said, and he expected a high standard of competition.

Other competitors at the 10-day festival will be happy if the kitesurfers do not get exactly what they want.

Those in the stand-up paddle races will be looking for flat calm conditions in the male 6km, female 4km and junior 2km races.

Those who make the 90-minute drive from Abu Dhabi will also be able to watch ski kayakers, canoeists, sailors, and beach football and volleyball teams compete for a total Dh1 million in prizes.

On the final day of the festival, weather permitting, 100 boats with crews of 20 to 25 men will race for a Dh3.5m purse in the final leg of the Emirates Sailing Championship.

Obaid Al Mazrouei, the festival manager, said organisers had focused more on families and widened the entertainment for this year’s festival.

“Competitions aside, we also have internationally recognised acts scheduled to perform, a whole host of shows for the kids and things to do for families – like a traditional souq, for example,” Mr Al Mazrouei said.

“We have been working hard with all our partners to ensure the 2013 Al Gharbia Watersports Festival will be an interactive experience for the entire family.”

eharnan@thenational.ae