Dubai: Al Sahel, owned and skippered by Saeed Salem Saeed Al Rumaithi, won the 22nd Al Gaffal Traditional 60-foot Dhow Sailing Race that concluded at the Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) yesterday.
Al Zeer, owned by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, and skippered by Mohammad Rashid Bin Shaheen, overcame an unlucky streak to take the second place. Al Wasl — owned by Shaikh Mohammad Bin Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and skippered by Khalaf Butti Mosabah Al Ghashish — came third.
The race had been put off by a day due to rough seas. But with winds improving late on Saturday, organisers at DIMC decided to have the start at 6am.
However, that decision too ran into trouble as some of the dhows had a false start, forcing a re-start that delayed proceedings.
But once they were off, there was no catching Al Zeer as it took a huge lead and checked in at the Moon Island checkpoint. However, a damaged sail disrupted the pace of Al Zeer.
That, and a shift in the wind direction, allowed the rest of the pack — especially the right-hand side fleet — to catch up with the leader. Ultimately, it was Al Sahel that crossed the finish line first to walk away with the first prize of Dh500,000 and the pride of being the best dhow in the UAE.
Shaikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum presented the trophies and prizes to the winners in the presence of Ahmad Bin Thani, chairman of the DIMC board of directors, Ali Nasser Bin Hebbala, vice president, DIMC and board members Huraiz Bin Huraiz, Marwan Al Tayer and Mohammad Hareb.
Though the original entry list had 99 dhows participating in the race, there were two additions, taking the entry to a record 101 dhows. However, only 50 dhows crossed the finish line within the time limit.
Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, and patron of this race, had his traditional press conference on his yacht Al Fahidi on Friday. He had a special word of thanks for outgoing DIMC Chairman Saeed Hareb, who is responsible for building up this brand of racing.
The Al Gaffal race formally brings down the curtains on the water sports season in the UAE.