Sunday, December 11, 2011

Volvo Winter Regatta - Dubai

I never got tired of photographing this view.
On Saturday Mark and I got to participate in our first Dubai Offshore Sailing Club event. I called ahead and talked to Rachel in the sailing office, who was happy to sign us up for race committee on Saturday which was the final day of this three-day regatta. Although we would have loved to be racing, we figured that being race committee would give us an overview of the whole fleet. That turned out to be oh, so true, as I was assigned to the start boat in the big boat fleet and Mark was assigned to the dinghies.

The kids were in for a long day but they were troopers.
Although I knew Mark was interested in seeing the big boats -- we both were -- I also figured that he would enjoy being with the dinghies because there were several fleets and all ages, including small kids in Optimists. Although he usually won't admit it, Mark really enjoys talking to young kids. Go figure ...

There was just enough time for Nasser to catch a hamour.
It was small so he threw it back.
We had two races with four starts each on the big boat course, two IRC divisions for the raciest boats, a one-design J22 fleet with five boats, and a club keel division. After a postponement a warm, moderate sea breeze filled in. This was Race 5 and of the regatta, and we started the smallest boats first, which were the J22's, and sent everyone three times around a course that was windward-leeward for the first two laps and a triangle on the third. Or as we sometimes refer to it, "two sausages and croissant."

The second race, Race 6, was similar, but twice around and they moved the wing mark further out toward the islands. It was funny to hear Joel, DOSC's sailing manager, tell Nasser on the other boat to move the mark near Atlantis. I immediately thought of the big Atlantis hotel and casino in Reno,then the mythical city, and then realized that what looked like a little bit of sand on the horizon was the Atlantis island, and just beyond it was the World. You can see them from the air or on Google Earth; the effect from the water is much less dramatic. DOSC holds an "Around the World" race. I'll put that on my bucket list.

The kite boards appear in late afternoon.
Just freakin' beautiful.
I was worried about being chilly because I knew Friday had been breezy and cool, but this was very comfortable. It reminded me of a beautiful day of Southern California sailing, with much bluer water. The wind got a little stronger in the late afternoon, but it didn't reach 20 knots as it had the day before. As the sun got lower I asked Joel when the wind usually dies and he said after it gets dark. We finished the last boat just after 5:00 p.m. and it was getting just a little choppy as we headed in.

Hey now you little boats, don't be intimidated by the big boys.
DOSC is an unusual club because its membership is constantly turning over as people leave and new ones arrive. Conversations begin with, Where are you from? How long have you been here? How long do you plan to be here? I overheard a shorthanded boat recruiting crew, and they had trouble finding sailors with any racing experience. Likewise, boats in the marina come up for sale regularly so I wonder how many of them have either the benefit of regular crews or long term ownership and the proactive maintenance that goes along with it. That's not to say that there aren't some beautiful boats; there are. Mark particularly likes the Landmark 43 with the teak cockpit floor. Lovely!

Catch 22 was the day's big winner, if you ask me.
We gotta beat -- I mean meet -- these guys.
Looking at the results of the big boat fleets, there is amazing consistency in the finishes on corrected time in three out of the four fleets. Also there were a lot of DSQs in the fifth race because of sailing through the start-finish line, which was restricted. Even though Joel went out of his way to inform the fleets between races, a couple of boats made that mistake in the sixth race.

I noticed that the first boat to cross the finish line in the last race was the J22, Catch 22, beating all the big boats over the line. That looks like it would be a fun boat to sail here in this wind and water. There were five in the regatta, but there are more in the marina. Mark and I have never sailed a one-design boat together as owners. It would be fun and manageable. Meanwhile, there is one for sale, but it doesn't have a mast. However, it would be better to find a boat we can step onto.

Beneteaus are popular here.

Mark likes this boat.
The J92 was looking good all day.
What an awesome place to sail a Mumm 30.
Did I mention the flat water and reliable wind?
When I met up ith Mark at the club, I could tell he had a fun time, too. He told me about a little Irish lass of about 10 years with red hair, green eyes and freckles whose name was Lucy, sailing an Opti. Lucy sailed by the committee boat to report that she was thumped in the head several times by the boom. The committee encouraged her to tough it out, and sent her off to keep racing. Mark watched her for awhile and then notified the women on the committee boat that she looked none to happy. They looked, agreed, and told Lucy to come back to the boat. After some hugs, encouragement, and general mothering she was better and went off again. When she saw Mark later at the club she came up to him and said, "Are you the one who saved me?" Mark also got a kick out of a small boy with a British accent who sailed his Opti up to the committe after each of the first three or four races to report that he was protesting three or four other boats.

While we originally thought it would be ideal to have a big enough boat in the marina so that we could over night there on weekends we are realizing how much that would cost, and what a commitment it would be in time and maintenance. Now our thought is to make base camp at a nearby Holiday Inn when we sail, and taxi to and from the yacht club, no driving after the regatta. We drove home after the Volvo Winter Regatta, but as we left at 7:00 pm the party was just getting started in the outdoor area. They were serving shawarmas, my favorite Arabic sandwich, there was a good band, and the bar was open. But we had to get back to Abu Dhabi, a drive of about a bit over an hour.We were tired from our 12 hour day, but next time we'll stay and I can drop Mark off at work on the way home on Sunday morning.

If Isabella and Mikhail look like newlyweds
that's cuz they are -- one month!!
Before we left the party we talked with Isabella, a very nice young woman from Poland who was on race committee with me. Her husband Mikhail was foredeck on a boat called Going Bananas. They were the ones looking for crew. Isabella brought Mikhail over to introduce us and to also tell us that he has read my blog! I was amazed. I know of at least 15 countries where people have viewed it; that's a thrill. But to meet someone from another country who found it and read it! They've only been here for a month, even less than us. Mikhail said he would like to sail with us, so maybe we can recruit him if we get a boat ... and we can steal him away from the bananas.

In between photo ops I took finish times.
Photo by Isabella
Meanwhile, we're doing more research and planning to do another day at the club as visitors and volunteers, either as crew or race committee. The club is restricted in the number of members it is allowed to have, so they want to be sure that people who join will be active sailors. I'm looking forward to proving ourselves!

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