Dubai: Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Grant Dalton says his side will view the Dubai leg of the Louis Vuitton Trophy in November as an opportunity to repay the UAE for putting the wind back in its sails.
Emirates Airlines have backed the Kiwi outfit since 2007 and the partnership has helped ETNZ in its recent sailing history. The deal bore fruit in the first year itself when Dalton's men won the Louis Vuitton Cup to qualify for the 32nd America's Cup where they lost 5-2 to defenders Alinghi.
It was announced on Sunday that Dubai will host the third leg of the Louis Vuitton Trophy between November 13 and 28 and Dalton hopes to repay Dubai's faith by winning the city's maiden regatta, which will be held in the waters off Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) at Mina Seyahi.
Dalton said: "Since I started coming to Dubai I have always hoped for an opportunity to race here. We've wanted to bring the boats here and this is a fantastic opportunity to come down.
"I think Dubai is a pristine place for sailing and, climate wise, November will be perfect for racing. This is a good opportunity to give something back — to pay back to Emirates and the team. It will be payback for the fantastic support they've shown us."
Dubai will in a way be a second "home race" for Dalton and his men as the 2010 schedule also includes Auckland. Sardinia and Hong Kong are the other two venues on the calendar, however, the ETNZ skipper agrees it will be foolish to throw caution to the wind as a number of top 85-foot America's Cup Class yachts will drop anchor at Mina Seyahi for the two-week event. ETNZ aside, the race line up is also expected to include Artemis (Sweden), BMW Oracle Racing (USA), Azzurra (Italy), Teamorigin (Great Britain), Mascalzone Latino (Italy), Synergy (Russia), All4One (France/Germany) and Aleph Sailing Team (France).
Paul Cayard, the Chairman of the World Sailing Team Association (WSTA) and skipper-strategist of Team Artemis, said: "I have sailed in Dubai on several occasions. The conditions are ideal, the course is next to the shore and the atmosphere is exciting.
"DIMC is a fantastic host and I am sure our event here will open many eyes to this fantastic racing venue."
Cayard said he will "keep a spot" vacant for a local team to join the line-up. "It will be great if one of the local teams could join the list of competitors, it will also help bring a lot of supporters to the event as these boats are magnificent and sailing is of the highest standard here," he added.
Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the Chairman of DIMC, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, said: "The Trophy will attract the very finest yachtsmen in the world to our shores and it is going to be a tremendous honour to host them."
Does this further establish Dubai as a sporting hub in the Middle East? Do you find sailing difficult compared to other sports?