By Shane McGinley
Emirate will become the first ever Mideast port to be part of world's biggest sailing challenge.
Abu Dhabi is set to become part of the world’s biggest sailing race, it was announced on Monday.
The Volvo Ocean Race is a nine-month, 37,000 mile-long race in which seven teams race around the globe stopping at various ports.
In 2008, Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad told Arabian Business in an interview in Cape Town that Dubai would be a “great” location for the race, but that it faced competition from Bahrain, Qatar and Abu Dhabi.
However, it was revealed on Monday at a press conference in Emirates Palace that the UAE capital had beaten stiff competition from its local rivals and will be one of the host ports for the next race beginning in 2011. The city will be the first ever Middle Eastern port to take part in the race.
Team Abu Dhabi will be competing in a newly designed boat, built by the Abu Dhabi Mar Group.
The 2011-12 race will start in Alicante in Spain and will finish in Galway in Ireland. Abu Dhabi is the latest host port to be announced and joins Lisbon and Cape Town, which have already been unveiled.
Eighty cities applied to be part of the race, which has a television audience of 1.3 billion. The 2011-12 race will be 39,000 miles long and will have up to 12 teams and a maximum of 11 host ports, officials revealed at the press conference.
A study undertaken by the Sports Business Group at Deloitte looked at the 2008-09 race and concluded that the race was "amongst the sports world's highest impact, short-duration major sports events," and generated more revenue than the UEFA Cup Final or the Open Golf Championship.
The Deloitte report estimated that the 2008-09 race generated $131m in revenue for the port of Alicante and $45m for the port of Singapore.
This is a major win for the UAE, after the shocking and unsportsmanlike dropping of RAK as the America's Cup venue because of Ellison's concern for his gin palace Rising Sun being so close to Iran. Sailing in the Gulf is glorious, and this will greatly enhance the popularity of the sport. The Volvo is about grit, not money, unlike the America's Cup, so it will be a treat indeed.
Bringing this prestigious race to Abu Dhabi has excellent potential to revive sail, as against motor yachts, in a region with such a rich maritime history and culture. The visionaries whose efforts provided this victory over the other local competition and facilitated our city's selection as a venue are to be commended. We look forward to seeing fleets of sailing dhows participating in the race's peripheral events and pray that sportsmanship rather than courtroom trickery will prevail on this occasion.