Dhows to race in Mirfa as wa­ter fes­ti­val opens


More than 2,000 sailors will un­furl sails on their 18-me­tre dhows this Satur­day – the open­ing week­end of the 2018 Al Dhafra Wa­ter Fes­ti­val.

About 4,000 com­peti­tors will take to the re­mote west­ern seas of Abu Dhabi for Dh4.2 mil­lion in prizes.

The fes­ti­val is held in Al Mirfa, a sleepy sea­side town 160 kilo­me­tres west of Abu Dhabi on the mo­tor­way to Saudi Ara­bia in Al Dhafra re­gion.

This year’s event will have tra­di­tional wooden mah­mel row­boat races, kite hy­dro­foil races, a sail­ing re­gatta and a stand-up pad­dle­board race. A fish­ing com­pe­ti­tion for king­fish will run through­out the fes­ti­val.

Beach ac­tiv­i­ties will in­clude swim­ming, foot­ball and vol­ley­ball tour­na­ments and a tra­di­tional mar­ket.

An es­ti­mated 110 ships are ex­pected to com­pete in Satur­day’s dhow race.

Fam­i­lies watch­ing the ac­tion will be given a new track­ing sys­tem to fol­low the dhows in their 25-nau­ti­cal mile race. It is ex­pected to last 90 min­utes.

“Tack­ing and jib­ing is very dif­fi­cult with the dhow’s sail, it’s not easy,” said Ma­jed Al Muhairi, the chief ex­ec­u­tive at Abu Dhabi Sail­ing and Yacht Club. “That’s why we start from one point and fin­ish at an­other.”

Events run from dawn un­til 4pm daily, with most ac­tiv­i­ties wrap­ping up at about noon.

“Each fes­ti­val en­hances Dah­fra’s tourism and wa­ter ac­tiv­i­ties, par­tic­u­larly af­ter hav­ing hosted thou­sands of am­a­teur and pro­fes­sional ath­letes from many coun­tries and more than 70,000 vis­i­tors last year,” said Fares Al Mazrouei, the chair of cul­ture pro­grammes and her­itage fes­ti­val com­mit­tee.

“Mirfa cit­i­zens have started to build their own boats, they have started to teach their kids how to sail 20 to 60 foot dhows,” said Mr Al Muhairi. “About 20 or 30 boats are owned by Mirfa cit­i­zens now.”

The an­nual fes­ti­val, now in its 10th year, will run for 10 days from Thurs­day, April 19, un­til Satur­day, April 28.

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