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.