Final falcon races at Al Dhafra on Wednesday

There are three classes of competition, and more than Dh1 million in cash and prizes.

ABU DHABI // They are among the swiftest birds of prey in the world but a special race will reveal which falcon is the fastest in the skies.

Saker falcons can reach speeds of up to 300kph when chasing prey, but visitors to Al Dhafra Festival are set to find out just how fast they fly in a 400 metre straight line.

The competition, which began on Saturday and ends on Wednesday, has seen the fastest time so far clocked at 17.04 seconds.

The UAE record is 16.09 seconds.

The race is being organised by the Abu Dhabi Falconers Club and is split into three categories – public-owned falcons, public professional falcons and sheikhs’ falcons.

The first two days of competition featured sheikhs’ falcons, while the second two days were open to the public.

On today’s final day the fastest 25 falcons from the public and sheikhs will race in the super finals.

Their speed in the Tilwah, or speed race, is measured using equipment that includes sensor lasers.

The overall winner will take home a Nissan Patrol and a Marshal radio telemeter used to train falcons.

Prizes total Dh1 million and six cars.

For the first time at Al Dhafra Festival, the racing falcons are also fitted with electronic rings, which were invented by the Abu Dhabi Falconers Club.

They are made out of a light, carbon-fibre material and fitted with a 16mm diameter electronic chip.

This wraps around the falcon’s leg to provide an accurate reading on all data, such as speed, sprint and distance travelled.

According to the club 1,700 birds were initially registered to compete.

The eighth Al Dhafra Festival continues in Madinat Zayed in the Western Region until January 1.

It is organised by the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee – Abu Dhabi.

Published: December 23, 2014 04:00 AM