Enthusiasts get a taste of Volvo Ocean Race in Abu Dhabi

The village, which opened to coincide with the competitors’ arrival in the capital earlier this month, has been set-up on the Corniche Breakwater with events for both the sailing enthusiast and the curious onlooker.
Fly-boarding performance at Volvo Ocean Race Destination Village in Abu Dhabi. Mona Al Marzooqi/ The National
Fly-boarding performance at Volvo Ocean Race Destination Village in Abu Dhabi. Mona Al Marzooqi/ The National

ABU DHABI // Visitors from home and abroad flocked to the Volvo Ocean Race Village over the weekend to learn more about the round-the-world challenge.

The village, which opened to coincide with the competitors’ arrival in the capital earlier this month, has been set up on the Corniche Breakwater with events to attract sailing enthusiasts and the curious onlooker.

Visitors could climb a podium to get an up close and personal view of the boats while they were docked on elevated platforms near the boatyard.

A model of the SCA race boat made of 100,000 pieces of Lego was popular with the crowds.

Visitors could also attempt to scale a climbing wall, go for a sail around the Corniche, or try their golfing skills by hitting a ball on to a green on a man-made island.

By the evening the village was steadily getting busier as music fans turned up for a concert by the Lebanese singer Myriam Fares.

Among the visitors was Sri Ranga of Dubai, who saw the village as a chance to spend a day outside in the perfect weather.

“I wanted to see the race. This is a great way for people to get closer to the race and understand more about the sport,” said Mr Ranga.

“Besides, this is a great atmosphere and a way to get people involved.”

Participating in the Volvo challenge, which has visitors experience what it feels like to be on the boat by controlling the mast, Mr Ranga said that it was a lot more difficult than he thought it would be.

“We drove down from Dubai and we came down here, just having a great time looking around the boats and seeing the intricacies of the boats. The cross-section was very interesting,” he said.

On the entrance to the village, the organisers have set up a cross-section of an entire 65-foot sailing boat. Visitors can walk through the entire boat to experience what it feels like being on deck and in the cramped living quarters.

Chaz Coats, a sailing enthusiast from the United States, said such attractions would help to popularise the sport.

“We went through the half-model and it really brings people closer to the actual sport, especially the cross-section,” he said.

“We’ve been following the race online so seeing the boats up close is great. We’re huge fans.”

Mr Coats and his wife, Nelda, have sailed more than 25,000 nautical miles in the past 30 years, once voyaging their way from New Jersey to the Bahamas.

“When we see what they’re doing, when they show the film clips of them in nasty weather, we say ‘wow, we’ve been there, done that’. I don’t want to be there again, it’s a tough sport,” said Mr Coats.

Uwe Naumanne, a volunteer for the Volvo Ocean Race, hoped the village would garner more participation in the sport.

“I work here in Abu Dhabi, and I read a lot about this race, so I’ve come here to help and I know this race for a long time,” said Mr Naumanne.

“For me, to be able to be here and teach people about the boats, to be able to touch the boats, it’s great for me.”

The German national, a naval architect, only sails on a private boat, but says that Abu Dhabi is one of the greatest places to be for the sport.

“This is interesting for the public. You have one of the nicest places on Earth here for sailing. Calm water, nice beaches, amazing environment and weather. All this wind and always warm,” said Mr Naumann. “I hope that people understand that and see that I want to sail in this perfect place — that is my message.”

The race village is open until the race competitors leave for the next leg, to Sanya in China on January 3.

nalwasmi@thenational.ae

Published: December 26, 2014 04:00 AM

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