DUBAI: As the 22nd Al Gaffal Traditional 60ft Dhow Sailing Race is held on Saturday, 2010 winner Marwan Abdullah Al Marzouqui, owner of Zizzal, hopes to repeat his feat.
"We are confident of doing well," said Al Marzouqui. "We have made small changes to our boat which should help us get better speed. We did well in 2010 and we want to come up with a similar performance."
This is the last race in the watersports season at Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) which will wear a festive look as close to 100 dhows will compete in the event. The race which upholds the traditional dhow sailing of the country will begin from Sir Bu Nair Island and end at Burj Al Arab.
Al Marzouqui said: "It's really a part of our tradition. We as young sailors have to learn from experienced people and pass on the tradition.
"We are thankful to our fathers and grandfathers who taught us and we have been in this boat since we were nine-year-old. They have taught us to deal with this type of dhow and know the situations while sailing."
The Al Gaffal race was created out of fears expressed by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, and other leading officials of Dubai's ruling family that the dhow, once at the emirate's cultural and economic heart, was disappearing from Emirati society. To safeguard this important part of local tradition, this race was started which has breathed new life into the region's fleet of traditional dhows.
"We are working hard and we are really looking forward to the race. We are busy checking the new rules and getting our equipment ready. We are also contacting our team members and checking if everybody is ready for it."
Sports director of the DIMC, Sid Bensalah, explained that the race will for the first time finish at the Burj Al Arab this year.
"We have changed the finish line for the first time to Burj Al Arab. We are also showing the event live on Dubai TV since it's going to be a long race."
He added: "We have the same entries like last year and expect around 100 dhows. It's an excellent number since we have been receiving similar numbers for the past five years."
The first race was held on May 23, 1991, organised by the military and DIMC. In all, 53 dhows competed in the inaugural race, with the boats a mixture of 43ft and 60ft vessels in various states of repair - with many not equipped for long distance races. But the race opened a new chapter for traditional dhow in Emirati life, creating a firm fixture in the local watersports calendar and securing the traditional dhow's place in Dubai's cultural present and future.