Louis Vuitton sailors steer closer to Dubai glory

Six teams have been competing in a round robin to establish rankings that they hope will lead them to win the Louis Vuitton Trophy.

The All4One yacht is pulled out to sea to start the Louis Vuitton Trophy race at the Dubai International Marine Club.
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DUBAI // The Louis Vuitton Trophy, one of the world's most prestigious sailing events, reaches its halfway mark this weekend, with organisers promising some very exciting racing.

Although the elite match racing regatta has so far drawn disappointing crowds of no more than 200 people per day, larger attendances are expected this weekend and also for the final race on November 27.

Bruno Trouble, the event's organiser, said Dubai residents had a lot of high-profile sporting events from which to choose. He added that at previous Louis Vuitton Trophy events, in Europe and New Zealand, it was normal to see more than 1,000 visitors a day. However, he added, the Dubai race was still in its early days.

"It'll be more exciting [this weekend] and the racing village is great," he said. "You can follow the race on a giant television, you can meet the crew, you can have a signed poster of the event and the crew.

"We're taking people out to watch the regatta on the spectator boats for free."

Six teams have been competing to establish rankings in a round-robin, which finishes today with some of the best and most experienced sailors in the world competing. The second round-robin starts tomorrow with the knock-out races finishing in the final a week tomorrow,.

Visitors to the race village can also visit the purpose-built heritage village, which conveys the UAE's centuries of sailing tradition with information on pearl diving and fishing as well as the country's long association with the sea.

In the racing village, each team has a stand with information about its boat and crew members.

Today, young Emirati sailors will be racing for the Louis Vuitton Junior Trophy, with the winner having the honour of being the 18th man on one of the two boats competing in the final. Tomorrow, at 2pm, the Dhow Regatta begins with some of the world's best sailors racing each other in the Emirati boats.

Ross Halcrow, trimmer for the American entry BMW Oracle Racing, has won the America's Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race, and said he was looking forward to racing the traditional UAE boats.

"We've seen pictures of the boats and they look like a lot fun. We'll get a lot of our big guys on board because there will be a lot of pulling ropes manually."

Ray Davis, Emirates Team New Zealand's tactician, also saw pictures of the dhows.

"We are told to go down wind and we should get up to 20 knots of boat speed. No foreigners have been invited to race them before," he said.

"The sailing conditions are great. It is like the committee boat has a switch to turn the wind on at one o'clock," said Mr Trouble.

He said the reliable wind makes the race easier for television and for spectators, who do not have to sit around waiting for the conditions to allow a race to start.

"It's like rain at Wimbledon when you just see an empty court on TV," said Mr Trouble.

The final three days of the racing will be broadcast live on television in France, Italy and New Zealand. It is also on Dubai TV.

The Louis Vuitton race series, which is being held in its present format for the final time, was set up by the World Sailing Team Association to keep top sailing teams fit for competition when the future of the America's Cup was put in doubt by legal wrangling. That wrangling is now resolved.