Saturday, November 20, 2010

And now for something completely different ...

From camel racing to dhow racing, today’s off day at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Dubai had enough variety to rival television shows such as Laugh In.

The day started at dawn with a trip to the desert to watch camel racing.

The racing takes place in the early morning hours to avoid the midday heat. The camels race around a 4km (2.5 mile) horseshoe track in heats that last between 6 and 7 minutes.

While the camels are sprinting around the track, a fleet of cars give chase on inner tracks. The lane closest to the track is for the TV crew. The next lane is for the owners of the camels and the outer lane is for spectators and supporters. The owners control the robot jockeys with radios that actuate a whip that spurs the camel to run faster.

In the afternoon, it was back to the sea for racing traditional dhows. The dhow has plied the waters of Arabia for hundreds of centuries as a trading vessel.

Today was the first day that non-Emirati were allowed to race aboard the dhows, which are built of teak and measure approximately 60 feet in length.

Twelve BMW ORACLE Racing team members were aboard for the day, including (kneeling, left to right) Julien Di Biase, Jeff Causey, Dirk de Ridder, Revelin Minihane, Chris Schirmer and (back row, right to left) Murray Jones, Criag Schirmer, Cathy Ryan, Brian “Puck” MacInnes, Matt Mason, Ian Moore and skipper James Spithill.

Cathy, the sailing team administrator, had a welcomed day out of the office.

The crew had to hoist the giant boom for the polyester sail by hand.

On an ACC sloop, the crew crouches low in the cockpit to reduce windage. On the dhows, they were asked to hike from the rigging to aid stability.

And when the wind got light, the regular sailors dumped sand from the ballast bags.

Skipper James guided the crew to 3rd place in what was an enjoyable day for all.