It's show time in Dubai plus David Glenn in a one-to-one with Grant Dalton 14/3/06

Two of the world’s most influential personalities in match racing and the America’s Cup flew into Dubai yesterday to take part in separate regattas to coincide with the 14th Dubai International Boat Show.

Russell Coutts, arguably the most successful helmsman in America’s Cup history but ironically sidelined by Alinghi for next year’s defence, was in the emirate for the two-day Dubai Match Race Challenge against Danish helmsman Jes Gram-Hansen.
Dalton meanwhile was taking part in a corporate regatta with Emirates the airline backing the New Zealand America’s Cup bid.

Coutts already has strong links with Dubai through V1 Advanced Composites Technologies(see Yachting World, April issue on bookstalls now)who are planning to build his specialist RC 44 match racing yacht, which will make its debut in the regatta on Thursday.

But he is also clearly playing a key role in the drive to develop Dubai as a world-class match racing and sailing location. In addition to near perfect sailing conditions with fresh sea breezes in the afternoons, there are virtually grand stand views from the Dubai International Marine Club (the match race organisers) premises, which are adjacent to Le Meridian resort hotel and the Palm Jumeirah breakwater. They form three sides of a square inside which the racing takes place.

The development in the club’s immediate hinterland is quite extraordinary, one of the most notable being the new, vast Dubai Media City where CNN, Reuters and UAE media companies have already set up shop in spectacular looking HQs. Their views look directly over the racecourse!

Quoted this morning in the Khaleej Times, the leading Gulf English language newspaper, Russell Coutts said: “The climate and water conditions look to be almost perfect for boating activities and Dubai International Marine Club has an organisational structure that can run major international sailing events. It is a relatively unknown but fantastic new sailing venue.”

His RC 44, the first two of which have been built by the Hungarian company Pauger Carbon, is likely to figure strongly in a major new regatta being planned in Dubai in March next year. V1 Advanced Carbon Technologies are also licensed to build the yachts. Coutts is clear about the potential in the emirate. “Dubai has a central location between the major European and Asian sailing events and events in November, February and March will fit well into the international calendar.”

On Thursday Coutts will face up against Gram-Hansen and a crew from the Italian-based America’s Cup challengers Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team in six 20-minute races designed to give the crowd thrills and spills. Special spectator boats will also be provided on a first come first served basis.

Meanwhile I met Grant Dalton, managing director of Emirates Team New Zealand flying in from Auckland on one of his sponsor’s planes. Grant told me he was in town for a pro-am yachting event for Emirates who were familiarising themselves with the nuances of match racing and taking the opportunity to run some corporate hospitality. They will be using Beneteaus and a new Lutra designed 30ft sports boat also built by V1.

Grant told us that the team’s new cup boat had undergone testing off Auckland, that he was “happy with things” and was looking forward to returning to Valencia at the end of this month for the disembarkation of the boat which is currently en route to Europe.

Dubai show opens

This show is in its 14th year and growing fast with 427 exhibitors. Many of them are power orientated but as the story above suggests there’s a growing interest in competitive yachting and if the following of local dhow racing is anything to go by sailing in more modern yachts could really take off here.

There’s a long history of popular offshore powerboat racing and speed machines of all sorts are due to be on show this afternoon and for the next five days. There are also motor yachts exceeding 24m on show afloat.

Apart from the match racing running concurrently with the show the 2nd Gulf Boating Conference will also take place, the main thrust being ‘Vision for the Future’ covering everything from waterside developments (a massive issue here), locally built boats and regulations for leisure boating.

Just to give you an idea which overseas companies are taking an interest in this part of the world, the following are among the exhibitors: V1 Advanced Composites Technologies, Sunseeker, Amels, Edmiston, Contest Yachts, Feadship, Cavendish White, Comar, Catana, Fairline, Fraser, New Zealand Marine Export, Holland Jachtbau, Lurssen, Warwick Yacht Design and, interestingly, the Isle of White Chamber of Commerce and Industry.