Sheikh Hamdan helped marine sports flourish in the UAE - GulfToday

Sheikh Hamdan helped marine sports flourish in the UAE

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum

Sheikh Hamdan launched the Al Ghaffal long-distance race from Sir Bu Nair Island to the beaches of Dubai in 1991.

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum left luminous fingerprints in the history of marine sports in the UAE in general, and in the local heritage races in particular, since its beginning in the seventies.

His continuous support led to the flourishing of local marine sports and the establishment of the Dubai International Marine Club in 1988.

Sheikh Hamdan contributed greatly to its development with his continuous and generous support, until these races became one of the most important sporting events in the UAE calendar. The events attracted a large number of people from the society.

Sheikh Hamdan’s ideas paved the way, and the year 1991 was the start of the largest maritime heritage race.

Sheikh Hamdan launched the Al Ghaffal long-distance race from Sir Bu Nair Island to the beaches of Dubai in 1991.

The route shows some of the most impressive parts of the Dubai coastline. Starting at Sir Bu Nair Island, the race heads east for 23 nautical miles to a mandatory checkpoint at Moon Island, before turning southeast to the finish line at the Burj Al Arab Hotel. This happens to be the same route taken by pearl divers returning from long trips at sea.

He was keen to make the Al Ghaffal Festival a heritage and not just a race, carrying many meanings that embody the association of the people of the Emirates with the cultural heritage, which reflected positively on all members of the large and small family and made the event turn into an authentic heritage carnival that brings together more than 5,000 people in the Gulf waters.

Sheikh Hamdan has also been keen, since the event’s inception, to attend all the races that were held throughout the past years to Sir Bu Nair Island, a day before setting off to meet with the shipowners and to negotiate with them about everything that matters, heritage and the race.

He continued to follow the event as it began, and stood on every small and large, and contributed a lot to its development, when experience revealed that the 43-foot boats that participated in the first three versions of the race in the years 1991, 1992 and 1993 are too small and weak to withstand the arduous race.

Sheikh Hamdan instructed to make stronger and safer ships, so that they meet the safety standards.

He then ordered the 60-foot class of ships in a trial race in 1993, which successfully paid off.

After that, the new class was approved, and the race is reserved only for ships at 60 feet in 1994.

Despite the many attempts over the past years to include other types of boats, as well as local sailing ships in this race, Sheikh Hamdan emphasised the importance of preserving the authenticity, and not inserting anything that would change the milestones of history.

Throughout the course of the event, Sheikh Hamdan provided great and generous support for the development and continuation of the race, and this was demonstrated by the great generosity since the race was established, which motivated the participants and raised the value of prize money.

It was learned that in 2006 the prize money reached Dhs6 million, while between 2007 and 2015 it became ten million dirhams, and three cars were added to the amount between 2016 and 2019, while it was decided to raise the prizes for the 29th edition.

In 2019, it reached Dhs12 million, in addition to three cars.

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