Ocean race inspires youth

Young people will benefit from Abu Dhabi's participation in the Volvo Ocean Race, which stopped in the capital in January.
Adil Khalid, an Emirati crew member of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing Team, greets supporters in the capital.
Adil Khalid, an Emirati crew member of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing Team, greets supporters in the capital.

ABU DHABI // The Volvo Ocean Race is being praised for sparking a booming interest in sailing, with new courses and clubs launching.

Race organisers say the sport is growing in popularity at the grassroots level, continuing the UAE's seagoing traditions.

When six carbon-fibre yachts left Abu Dhabi in January to continue the gruelling 39,000-nautical-mile round-the-world race, the purpose-built pontoons and buildings of the race village were given to the Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club (ADSYC) to help youngsters with new sailing programmes.

"The development of grassroots programmes is a long-term goal, yet the green shoots of this are already bearing fruit," said Faisal Al Sheikh, of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority. "ADSYC will open its Sailing and Rowing Academy with a winter training programme in September, with courses for optimist, laser, catamaran and keelboat classes."

Reinier d'Arnaud, sailing and events coordinator at the club, said there had always been a sailing tradition in the country, which was reflected by the number of dhow races organised by the club. "We look to work with six Abu Dhabi schools to offer sailing as an extra-curricular activity," he added. "This will allow their students to learn, train and represent their school in a sailing league competition.

The instructors will have to be internationally certified, and within a year the centre hopes to be fully recognised, with globally sanctioned certificates.

"The UAE already has a strong youth squad that has performed well in the optimist and laser classes at the GCC and Pan Arab Games," Mr d'Arnaud said.

"With the introduction of yachting and ocean racing to Abu Dhabi, we hope that these young competitors will continue to add to the UAE sailing heritage as did their fathers and grandfathers before them."

The Pelican Marine Sports Academy is expected to open this year. It will be based at the 131-berth Al Bandar Marina and will be the academy's first international sailing school outside Britain.

The Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority had an entry in the Volvo Ocean Race, with two Emirati crew members.

"The participation of Adil Khalid and Butti Al Muhairi in the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing Team has been a great step," Mr d'Arnaud said. "Already you can see the younger generation is inspired by their achievements. We hope many young UAE sailors will follow their footsteps."

The ADSYC said it would continue to sponsor regattas and races, and offer lessons to the public.

"We have a large variety of boats for training and competition. We will have specific programmes for youths and ladies," Mr d'Arnaud said. "With the help of volunteers we also hope to introduce sailing for children with special needs."

eharnan@thenational.ae

Published: August 13, 2012 04:00 AM

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