UAE's ‘Grand Prix of the Sea’ delayed until Feb 2013

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Plans to stage a power boat series in the UAE, dubbed ‘the Grand Prix of the Sea’, have been put back until spring next year due to organisational delays, but the event's British promoters revealed they are still aiming to expand the series to other parts of the Middle East.

London-based promoter Powerboat P1 Management earlier this year signed up a UAE financier to invest around US$2.5m to host the power boat racing series, but talks with local regulators and bodies has meant the original starting date in November has had to be amended.

“We are currently working towards securing approval from the Marine Sports Federation to launch the series. Unfortunately this has taken a little longer than we anticipated,” Mike Jones, general manager of Powerboat UAE, told Arabian Business.

“We are still committed to our racing championships… We have put it back until February. It is a slight delay but is not hugely significant,” added James Durbin, commercial director of Powerboat P1 Management.

Durbin said the official schedule for the event next year would be unveiled in December but the series was likely to start in Dubai and feature stopovers in other emirates, including Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah, with the final race taking place in the capital, Abu Dhabi.

The firm said it was also in negotiations with other Middle East states as part of its aim to establish at least 12 national series around the world, which will culminate in a world series in 2015.

“There will be potential for further investment in the wider Middle East region in Qatar, Lebanon and Oman. We are potentially looking at doing an exhibition race in Oman in 2013,” Durbin said.

The basic amount needed to host a series is €1.5m (US$1.9m) and as part of a franchise-style deal backers get ownership of ten racing boats. Additional revenue can be generated by host countries through spin-off advertising, sponsorship and TV and media opportunities.

While Durbin would not reveal the identity of the local UAE financier, he confirmed that other investors in Doha were closely watching the UAE series and they are aiming to start operations in Qatar within two years.

“We have been talking to Qatar for quite some time with a number of different organisations… They want to watch the success of the UAE series and as soon as we launch our first events negotiations will take the next step. It will be our view to be racing in Qatar, all things going well, in 2014,” he added.

Powerboat P1 has secured Dubai-based Onside Sports to find commercial partners and teams for the series and Durbin said they had seen “a terrific response from the private and public sector”.

Teams can take two different routes to apply for the series: they can buy a boat outright for US$125,000 and seek their own sponsor, or they can rent a boat for US$10,000 and organisers will source a sponsor for them to race under.

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