Windy forecast blows Dubai dhow race off course

The organising committee of the Al Ghaffal race announced the event has been delayed due to weather conditions.

The Al Ghaffal long-distance dhow race between the island of Sir Bu Nair and Dubai last year. Karim Sahib / AFP
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DUBAI // Blustery weather conditions forecast for this weekend might seem like good news for sailors, but it has put a dampener on the plans for the Ghaffal dhow race.

According to the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology winds are expected to pick up tomorrow afternoon and by Saturday north-westerly winds will be in excess of 20 knots.

The crews of more than 100 dhows who were planning to take part in the 23rd staging of the long-distance sailing race on Saturday have been told it has been put on hold. The organising committee of the Ghaffal race announced yesterday the event had been delayed until May 25.

The fear is not over the racing, but towing the dhows out to the starting point, which is about 100 kilometres out to sea.

“These dhows are made as light as possible with light wood,” said Ali bin Ghulaita, acting chief executive of the Dubai International Marine Club.

He said the boats were capable of sailing there by themselves but the captains did not want to risk damaging the boats on the way to the starting point.

“We are running it in a safe way. During the race, if something breaks, it happens during the race and not before it starts,” said Mr bin Ghulaita.

The forecast of strong winds is better news for five crews in the capital who plan to race in identical 7.5-metre boats at Emirates Palace marina tomorrow and Saturday.

“We were told there is a weather warning of 25 to 27 knots on Saturday,” said Miguel Contreras of the Duboats racing team. “There will be very high wind, so it’ll be fun to watch.”

Each boat’s five-man crew will compete in match races, sprinting around a course for the best times.

“The popularity of sailing is constantly rising here,” Mr Contreras said. “It used to be a very small community but it’s increasing.

Expats are always keen to support Emiratis and they are beginning to buy sail boats and get interested. To add to it, the country’s conditions are incredibly good for sailing.”

He said there was a lot of work going on in the background to promote sailing in the UAE.

The Volvo Ocean race, he said, was a great boost but there needed to be more than just one event to   keep up the momentum.

“We need more than one moment. The Volvo Ocean Race is very important but we as residents need more than one event and a way to improve sailing,” Mr Contreras said.

“We’re trying to push hard. It’s fun, healthy and very competitive.”