Thirty-two junior sailors from yacht and sailing clubs across the United Arab Emirates have congregated on the beach at the buzzing Destination Village for the Abu Dhabi leg of the Volvo Ocean Race Academy team racing regatta and clinic.
The two-day programme, one of the highlights of the stopover, kicked off today with classroom and on-the-water coaching sessions run by ISAF international umpire Chris Atkins, supported by Volvo race director Jack Lloyd and race officer Bill O’Hara.
This afternoon the teams got the chance to put what they had learned into practice with the opening rounds of the team racing regatta.
Each of the four-boat junior squads — from Oman, Sharjah, Bahrain and Dubai as well as Abu Dhabi — is representing a Volvo Ocean Race team in the regatta with the team allocations being drawn yesterday by representatives from the five Volvo Ocean Race sailing teams in Abu Dhabi.
The regatta and clinic follows the Abu Dhabi junior sailing festival which earlier in the week saw 60 youngsters try their hand at sailing for the first time in a fleet of dinghies provided by the Volvo Ocean Race and the Abu Dhabi sailing & Yacht Club.
Eight-year-old Matthaeus Walcher said he had great fun during the festival and learned a lot. “The main thing was that I learned to sail an Optimist fast,” he said. “It was cool and lots of fun.”
Jessica Kelly, also eight, said the most memorable thing she had learned was about starting a race. “There were lots of things to remember, but I enjoyed being afloat and learning more about racing,” she said.
Ross McGath was grateful for some help from fellow sailor Alex Wagner (8) when he got entangled in one of the ropes on his boat. “I got all tangled up but Alex dived off his boat and swam to help me. Then the coach boat came too and I was off sailing again.”
Alex said: “It was windy and I was going so fast when I jumped that I didn’t have to swim – I just kind of skimmed across the water to Ross’ boat!”
Racing at the Volvo Ocean Race Academy team racing regatta and clinic comes to a climax tomorrow afternoon with a series of knock-out rounds to decide the final two teams who will compete for the overall title.
The regatta prize giving ceremony is scheduled for 1700 local time (1300 UTC) in the Destination Village, which was buzzing once again on Friday with a host of free activities.
Attractions such as the 3D Cinema, the Grinding Challenge, the Dome and The Ride, a Volvo Open 70 simulator, are available for the public to enjoy along with other free games and competitions and there is a real local flavour about the Race Village, with a traditional Arabian souk at the entrance to greet visitors.
Read more about the programme at the Abu Dhabi Destination Village here.