Meeting the Locals in Abu Dhabi

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Tom and Amory get onboard a traditional dhow boat for a boat race with locals 

After arriving at the start line, they located boat No. 16 off the Abu Dhabi coast and stepped onboard. A few hours later, PUMA Navigator Tom Addis and Media Crew Member (MCM) Amory Ross were first across the line as part of the crew of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Alzeer – one of more than 80 traditional Arabian 60-foot dhow boats racing in the Abu Dhabi Sailing Festival. The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG sailors were on top of the podium along with skipper Mohamed Rashed Shaheen Al Marar, taking home gold medals and good memories.

“It took me a while to realize we started,” joked Addis. “It was anchors down, sails down, then suddenly there’s a lot of shouting, sails go up and off you go. A good start seems to be pretty important.

“It was quite a sight – a massive fleet,” Addis continued. “We got involved on the hoist, and they let me drive across the finish line, which was incredible. It was a fantastic experience and amazing to just see these boats. The one we were on was built in 2004, so they look old and they’re traditional construction, but they haven’t been around that long. They celebrated with a couple of drummers tapping on the deck.”

The PUMA crew, and sailors from each of the Volvo Ocean Race teams, swapped their Volvo Open 70s for an afternoon on the dhow. The US $1 million race to the UAE capital was part of the celebration around the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Abu Dhabi.

“We had to use a lot of tactics to win, as the wind was slow, maybe seven or eight knots to start. It is great to win, we have had a lot of victories and to take this one as well is great. Having the PUMA team onboard was very interesting, they fitted right in. Although, talking to them, I wouldn’t want to do the Volvo Ocean Race, that sounds very tough,” said Al Marar.

Sailing a 16 nautical mile sprint course, they finished at the Corniche breakwater - site of Abu Dhabi’s Volvo Ocean Race ‘Destination Village.’

“The boats are wood, but the rigs are carbon fiber,” Ross observed. “For ballast, they go out with sand bags. If it’s too light, they empty the sand bags then kick people off – we were fortunate to stay. If there’s breeze afterwards, they start filling water tanks on the boat.

“It was a great experience – they were very generous. I’d love to say we had a huge hand in the effort, but I think Tom and I spent more time just getting out of the way,” Ross laughed. “About 2 minutes into the race, I realized being a media crew member on a dhow is maybe harder than on a Volvo 70. The boat was moving around a lot – really, you’re never on a sure foot. The owner of this boat also owns a 43-footer, and they’re competing next week in Dubai. We got the invite to go – I guess we did enough to impress them.”


Photo: Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race