Dubai: Obaid Saeed Al Tayer skippered 'Al Qaffay' to victory in the 19th Sir Bu Naair Al Gaffal dhow sailing race on Saturday.
Shaikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum, Major General Saif Al Shaffar, president of the UAE Marine Sports Federation, and Saeed Harib gave away the trophies to the winners at the Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC).
Led from the front by Al Tayer and owned by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, Al Qaffay finished ahead of Atlas, skippered by Ahmad Rashid Al Suwaidi and owned by Faraj Bin Butti Al Muhairi.
Ghazi, skippered by Ahmad Saeed Al Rumaithi and owned by Khalifa Ali Maizer Al Rumaithi was placed third.
Coming in at the first checkpoint, it was Ghazi in the lead followed by Atlas and Al Qaffay. However, from then on the battle among the top three boats grew in intensity over the next 27 nautical miles till the finish.
Al Tayer had last won the annual race in 1992 at the helm of Fares. "This win is for Shaikh Hamdan and I dedicate this to him. I love the sea and this race and it is a great honour to win today after so many years," Al Tayer said.
Atlas last won the race in 2007 and in the same year Ghazi had come in second. "It was a good close race and I am happy to see Obaid win it," remarked Al Suwaidi.
The dhows reached the compulsory gate, which all the boats had to pass through at Moon Island in approximately two hours and 20 minutes, and then carried on valiantly to complete the course off Mina Seyahi with the first boat crossing the finish line in five-and-a-half hours.
The strong wind which had rocked the boats the previous evening had calmed down a bit in the morning, but a firm breeze gave the boats a good start. Jury boats on the line closely watched the fleet for infringements at the start.
Al Gaffal is a very different race when compared to the heats of the championship. The championship races are held over approximately 12-15 nautical miles and take around one to one-and-a-half hours to finish. In contrast, Al Gaffal is 50 nautical miles and not only a test of skill but also of endurance and stamina.
The top twenty boats from the championship league had virtual technology on board. "Last year we tested the technology on five boats and it proved to be very effective," said Saeed Hareb, managing director of DIMC, the organisers of the event under the auspices of the UAE Marine Sports Federation.