FACT’s George Calugaru sets sail during the debut of Sail Grand Prix in the Middle East.
The F50 catamarans were welcomed by a sold-out crowd in Dubai’s Mina Rashid. The city, known for the tallest building in the world, the deepest indoor swimming pool, and hundreds of other unmatched attractions, witnessed a race weekend worthy of the city’s reputation.
With only a wingspan separating the stands and the flying F50 catamarans, the spectators got a taste of the race, and dare we say the ocean, during the sharp yet fast manoeuvres. And if the water spray and the whistling sound of the hydrofoils didn’t add enough excitement, the ever-changing leaderboard most definitely did.
After Great Britain dominated the first race day with two victories in three races, followed by the United States and New Zealand, we witnessed a dramatic reshuffle of standings on day two. France and Australia, sailed their way to the top of the table by the end of the sixth race, allowing them to take on Great Britain, in a winner-takes-it-all final race between the three teams.
The plot of Dubai’s Grand Prix was far from ending and delivered several twists and breathtaking moments, in what Tom Slingby characterised as “probably the craziest race in the last thirty years”. To him, and most of the people watching, the final was a blur, with Australia coming out on top, and Great Britain not only slipping their first Sail Grand Prix win in the last eighteen months, but also losing their second spot to France, in the last seconds of the race.
Other memorable events we enjoyed during the debut of Sail Grand Prix in the Middle East, was the first ever event win for Jordi Xammar’s Spain (the youngest team on the calendar) which set a perfect example for more than 500 young sailing enthusiasts present as part of the SailGP’s INSPIRE program, hosted at the new P&O Marinas Water Sport & Sailing Academy, supported by the Dubai Off-Shore Sailing Club.
In his closing statement, Hamza Mustafa, Chief Operating Officer of P&O Marinas, a DP World company said that he and his team were honoured to host such a unique event, fueled by high-tech, high-speed action, and featuring the best sailing athletes in an iconic setting where thousands of people and their families enjoyed the local hospitality and thrill of the race.
SailGP is expected to return to the Middle East with two races in 2023.
GO: Visit sailgp.com/dubai for more information.