The sailing in Abu Dhabi is getting more interesting, most recently with two special event regattas, both sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club. ADSYC was established in 2011 – the same year Mark and I arrived in Abu Dhabi. They sponsor events in dhow sailing, yachting, dinghy sailing, surfing, rowing & kayaking.
The first event was the Abu Dhabi Match Race Trophy, the last weekend in September. There were two classes, Elliot 6 meter and Beneteau 7.5, both fleets provided by Miguel Contreras of Duboats. The racing was managed and umpired by international ISAF officials Manuel Dos Santos (Portugal), Andres Perez (Spain) and Rafael Bohorquez (Spain).
There were seven teams, and Team Unwind represented our club, Abu Dhabi Cruiser Association (ADCA.) Other teams represented Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, Emirates Heritage Club, Abu Dhabi Sailing Club, Emirates Palace Marina, Duboats and Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club.
Neither Mark nor I had ever match raced before, and nobody else on the boat – Emiliano, Paolo, or Marco, had much more experience. At the skipper’s meeting, the ISAF judge explained the basic rules. One flag, two flag, red flag, blue flag. Yellow flag. Green flag. Three flag. Black flag. By the time the meeting ended, my head was swimming. When you watch the video at the end of this story, look for Mark and me at the end of the meeting, about 00:40 to 00:55. A bit dazed …
The first day was very relaxing. Emiliano had set up camp under a shade tent on the beach, and this was our headquarters between races. His darling daughters played happily on the beach all day. Mom was vacationing in Sri Lanka. Yep.
The way match racing works is that there are four boats, with two boats racing at a time. Teams switch boats until they have raced all the other teams as many times as possible, depending on the wind and time constraints. When our turn came up to race, we were taken out to the racecourse on a powerboat. We lost both races, mainly because we “drew a foul” during the start that we had to clear, which essentially means doing a 360 degree turn. But we were learning, or so we thought.
After our first two races were over we went back to shore. Then it was lunchtime. The yacht club provided the lunches – a choice of chicken shawarma sandwich, which had french fries inside the sandwich …
… or biryani, a meat, rice and vegetable mixture seasoned with turmeric. Then there was a delay while the Muslim sailors went to the mosque to pray.
Meanwhile, the wind got very light. In fact, so light that although we went out on the water again and watched the racing, we never got another turn to race that day. So, after waiting from noon until 5:30 p.m., with the sun getting low, we were told that we would have two sets of races the next day.
The next morning our tactician and helmsman, Paolo and Mark, went out on the powerboat to watch the racing and try to learn. When they came back they seemed to have a handle on the starting maneuvers and rules.
But when we got out there and into our starting sequence, all hell broke loose. We were getting flagged left and right. Mark kept saying, “We weren’t even close!” and the judge would come and explain that, somehow, we hadn’t done enough to show that we were trying to get out of other boat’s way when they had rights over us.
Obviously we didn’t win. But we didn’t lose. There were only 5 teams the second day, we made it to the semi-finals, and actually came in 4th. I’m not sure how.
So … how did we like match racing? We don’t really know yet, but we think we just might not be match racers. To me, it just seemed like the whole point was to disqualify the other boat before the start – three fouls and it’s a black flag, so no race. So … you’re racing, but you don’t sail the race.
For Mark, he enjoys close racing. Like, sometimes inches between very expensive boats. But in match racing, if you are anywhere close to the other boat they start screaming and yelling and forcing you into a foul if they can. This just isn’t the way I am used to racing. Some people love match racing, and I would like to talk with them. What am I missing? One thing I that I know I was missing was the feeling of competence.
I’ve been sailing for 45 years, but I found match racing confounding. Which means I will might someday sign up for a match racing clinic, which is a great way to learn.
Still, it was a great regatta. Why? It was a new experience. We were sailing on warm, flat water in front of the corniche with the Abu Dhabi skyline as our backdrop. We learned something, even if all we learned was how little we know. Here is the regatta report on the ADSYC website. And this video, which is very long, but Team Unwind/ADCA is featured in a lot of the footage from 2:20 to 9:00.
Coming up next: we redeem ourselves in the Abu Dhabi Yachting Cup.