Going Out: Take in the sights of the Al Gaffal Dhow Race

Jay Asser 07:45 21/05/2015
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Inspiring sight: Dhow racing.

Tradition returns to the UAE as the Al Gaffal Dhow Race is set to take place this weekend to excite spectators and honour the nation’s rich history.

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Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the 2015 sailing race will feature 100 traditional Dhow boats, measuring 60 feet each, on Saturday off Sir Bu Nuair Island.

The race is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Deputy Ruler and Minister of Finance, and under the organising of Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC).

Spectators can secure their spot to witness one of the UAE’s oldest sporting events by purchasing tickets to watch on board the Dubai Ferry.

The rides include food and beverages and will coincide with the running of the race. The Public Transport Agency, Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced that tickets will be available to anyone interested in watching.

Dr Yousef Al Ali, chief executive officer of RTA’s Public Transport Agency, said: “We are keen on taking part in a variety of community-oriented social, economic and sports events in general and traditional initiatives in particular as they offer a chance to revive our glorious past and reflect the attention paid by our ancestors to marine life, fishing and pearl diving in the Gulf region.

“Our participation in Al Gaffal race for the third year in a row is intended to revive this sort of traditional marine contests and educate the new generations about the practice. The race is intended to showcase sailing boats measuring less than 60 feet in length which were used in fishing and transporting goods.

“It depicts the history of the UAE and how the life of its people was linked to the sea which offered them a safe refuge and a source for earning their living.”

Dhow boats date back in the UAE’s heritage as they were used as fishing vessels for pearl diving. Sir Bu Nuair Island has a rich history as the stopover for pearl merchants headed for Dubai after long trips at sea. The island’s route for pearl divers was named ‘Al Gaffal’, which means ‘closure’, and is the inspiration of the annual race.

The race first took place on May 23, 1991, when 53 dhow boats took to the waters. There were no 60- foot dhows, however, and the race consisted of smaller boats. That changed in the transition year of 1993 when 60-foot dhows competed alongside 43-foot dhows.

Since 1994, only 60-foot dhows take part in the race. Al Gaffal’s growth and development led to the Traditional Dhow Sailing Championship being split into three categories – the 22-foot championship, the 43-foot championship and the 60-foot championship.

The 60-foot dhows are now 14 feet in width, 4.6 feet in depth, have open weight and a mandatory two oars per boat. The assembly point for the Dubai Ferry is at the Dubai Marina Mall, where travellers will be picked up and dropped off.

The race offers beautiful scenery.

The boats will set sail off Sir Bu Nuair Island at 05:35, pass by Moon Island as the checkpoint and finish at picturesque Burj Al Arab.

The winning boat will be the one which reaches the finish line first. Please note that weather conditions could change the schedule of the race.

To purchase your tickets and for more information, call the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing at 600 555559, or DIMC at 04 399 5777.

The price for the ferry ride last year was Dh250 per person for silver class and Dh375 for gold class. Get a taste of the country’s heritage and experience the majestic boats up close at the Al Gaffal Dhow Race.

WHAT: Al Gaffal Dhow Race
VENUE: Off Sir Bu Nuair Island and finishing at Burj Al Arab
WHEN: Saturday, May 23 from 05:35
Sport360 VERDICT: Connect with the UAE’s roots and traditions by checking out beautiful dhow boats in action this weekend. The views of the boats on the water will be well worth it.
CONTACT: Call 600 555559 or 04 399 5777 to inquire about tickets and visit www.dimc.ae for more information.

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