Sailing Arabia - The Tour watched over by royalty in Ras Al Khaimah

Sheikh Mohamed bin Saud Al Qasimi presents the Al Qasimi Cup. - Sailing Arabia
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Sailing Arabia - The Tour. Match-racing was held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohamed bin Saud Al Qasimi, Crown Prince of Ras Al Khaimah.

Al Hamra Marina provided a spectacular venue for match-racing between four of the teams taking part in Sailing Arabia-The Tour during their stopover in Ras Al Khaimah. The morning saw a press event with many of the region’s key press coming down and watching the racing.

The event was headed by Paul Trowbridge, CEO of United Arab Bank, one of the sponsors of Sailing Arabia-The Tour alongside Commercialbank and National Bank of Oman. ‘For United Arab Bank, sponsoring this exciting event is a translation of the Bank’s commitment to the vision of the Leadership of the UAE for a fit and healthy young nation. This important event endorses Gulf cooperation, the health of our nation, and the youth of today, which is in line with our commitment of being part of and supporting the community and our proud nation. Sailing is about partnership, teamwork, and discipline, and so is banking. We and the young sailors share an unwavering commitment to excellence, a common pledge for success, and a joint vision and passion to win. We are pleased and proud to support this inaugural edition of Sailing Arabia-The Tour. We thank Oman Sail for this excellent initiative across the Gulf. This is a great initiative towards reigniting the region’s rich maritime heritage, promoting one of the region’s fastest growing sports, and generating goodwill and a healthy spirit of competition among the GCC youth.’

Soon after, Sheikh Mohamed bin Saud Al Qasimi, Crown Prince of Ras Al Khaimah sounded the start signal for the first of nine short match-races. Before he went out to the race course, he was full of enthusiasm, ‘This race means a lot for the past and the present, especially for this Emirate and our strong ties to the sea and our seafaring traditions. The focus is more on this event as we have a historical link to sailing. That other boats from the GCC are taking part is a good sign and is good for the future on a regional level. Here in Al Hamra Marina we have the hotels, the experience and the facilities to host different races for different boats and different distances, long or short, and this race has shown that.’ He then boarded a spectator yacht to watch the racing from on the water.

In a display of nerves, tactics and speed, the sailors went head to head instead of sailing as a fleet. This is a very different style of racing more akin to Extreme 40 sailing. Many spectators were seen along the shore watching as Team New Caledonia won enough races to put them at the top of the leaderboard and take home the inaugural Al Qasimi Cup. Commercialbank Group was a close second after winning the last race to put them ahead of Renaissance.

His Highness Sayyid Tariq bin Shabib Al Said was once again sailing on board Renaissance, after sailing with them from Abu Dhabi to Ras Al khaimah, a journey he recalls with great details, ‘Whoa! What a race! Shortly after crossing the start line (in third place) around 5pm we put up a fractional spinnaker for a while before swapping it for an even bigger spinnaker. We then spent the whole night on a knife-edge surfing waves whilst controlling the huge sail that was flying in front of us. Every time the boat got overpowered, and was in danger of being pulled over sideways by the spinnaker, a shout of 'On edge!' would go out. The crew would have to immediately ease the sail to de-power it, and instantly pull it back in, not to lose too much speed. I took a couple of 45 second power naps between cries of 'On edge!' and tossed my greasy lunch overboard before settling down to a crazy ride; an all night downwind surf extravaganza.

‘Just before 3 am we hit 18.9 knots boat speed in 22 knots of wind. The whole 30 foot boat was humming and stretching out behind us was a beautiful wake, lit up by rear nav light... I had my feet hanging over the rail with bright phosphorescence streaming underfoot like stars in warp-speed space travel! The strategy to put the big sail up early got us into second place and we chased the number one spot all the way to Ras Al Khaimah, dodging the odd container ship along the way. A couple of times the nose would slice into the trough of a wave sending water over the whole deck and shock everyone back into action.

‘We arrived in RAK to see a coastline dotted with huge hotels and apartments on reclaimed islands, none of which seemed to be connected to the electric grid so we sailed towards some huge black 10-storey structures that seemed to float offshore, backlit by street lights a mile behind them on shore. After crossing the line, and a quick tidying of the boat, I took my tired feet that had spent 12 hours marinating in wet socks and sneakers pushing up against the little triangular block that keeps you from sliding down the deck into the water flowing beneath you and I passed out (it was about 8:30 am by now). I slept like I'd been unplugged and had my batteries removed too. Reboot/upload data...Wow when I look back, I feel like I was an observer embedded in an elite platoon of highly trained commandoes. Commandoes who were climbing across a fast moving, always tilting ,always lurching platform; working winches, pulling lines, rotating the workload between them for 12-hours non stop. I felt like I spent most of the time just making sure I wasn't washed off deck. Much respect to the all the Omani crew of Renaissance; Saleh, Abdullah, Fahad, Mohammed, Nawaf and their coach Alistair or ‘Ali the big fella’ as he is known on board!’

The next leg of the race, the fourth leg, will leave Al Hamra Marina on Monday morning before the boats sail past the spectacular skyline of the Musandam peninsula and into the luxury resort of Six Senses Zighy Bay.

Bertrand pace and his crew on New Caledonia match-racing in Al Hamra Marina in Ras Al Khaimah. - Sailing Arabia
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