Update from Dubai

For the past three days I have been working on the World Sailing Teams Association (WSTA) and the Louis Vuitton Trophy regattas that will be held over the next 12 months. I represent the Artemis Racing Team and last November, during the Louis Vuitton Trophy in Nice, I was elected Chairman of this association of team owners.

Friday WSTA had meetings in Paris with representatives of all the member teams to focus on marketing and commercial issues. We also held a competitors meeting to talk about the organization of the Louis Vuitton Trophy Auckland which will be held in March. Then on Saturday morning we had a WSTA board meeting.

Saturday afternoon, a group of us including Yves Carcelle, Chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton, flew to Dubai where we arrived at 0100 this morning. Then today at 1000, we participated in a press conference today to announce Dubai as the Middle East venue selected to host the Louis Vuitton Trophy this coming November. HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman DIMC and Chairman & Chief Executive Emirates Airline and Group, hosted the press conference and confirmed his support for the Louis Vuitton Trophy and his enthusiasm to host sailing’s elite racing teams.

The Louis Vuitton Trophy regattas use four 85-foot America’s Cup Class yachts in a Match Racing format. Ten Teams – sailed by world champions, America’s Cup winners, Olympic medalists and round-the-world sailors – will compete in Dubai this November. The countries represented by these teams are: Sweden, France, Italy, New Zealand, Great Brittan, Russia and Germany.

The event will be held at Mina Seyahi, the home of Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) next to the Palm Jumeirah, while Emirates Airline – a leading sponsor – will be flying in many of teams and their support staff, as well as race officials and spectators from around the globe.

Dubai is a great venue for sailing with excellent wind and moderate temperatures in November. The hospitality here is ‘gold star’. I am sure it will be a fantastic event.

Tonight, I am flying back to the United States. I fly a great deal but this has been a record four days. Not quite sure what time it is. I will be back in Dubai mid-February for the next RC 44 regatta.

Dubai to host sailing’s prestigious Louis Vuitton Trophy race

DUBAI, U.A.E., 17th January 2010 – Dubai was today unveiled as the Middle East venue selected to host the Louis Vuitton Trophy, a two-week carnival of elite sailing which will put the global spotlight on the UAE.

Four spectacular 85-foot long America’s Cup Class yachts – sailed by world champions, Olympic medallists and round-the-world sailors – will be the focal point of the event which will firmly establish Dubai on the sport’s map.

The prestigious Louis Vuitton Trophy – a true test of the crews’ ability with teams racing identical yachts – is one of the most coveted events in sailing and Dubai joins established premier regatta venues, including Auckland, Sardinia and Hong Kong, as 2010 hosts.

It will be held at Mina Seyahi, the home of Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) next to the Palm Jumeirah, while Emirates Airline – a leading sponsor – will be flying in many of teams and their armies of support staff, as well as race officials and spectators from around the globe.

HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman DIMC, and Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group, said: “This is a real coup for Dubai. We are honoured to be part of this fantastic event which has rapidly emerged as a renowned spectacle of sport followed by millions around the world.”

“As well as thrilling spectators both here and on TV, it will consolidate Dubai?s status as a venue capable of hosting major international sporting events.”

“We are also looking forward to welcoming our very own Emirates Team New Zealand back to these shores and, having won the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series in Auckland last year, confidence will be high coming into this event.”

“Emirates has a great affinity with sailing and it is exciting to be strengthening our commitment to the sport further by supporting a race which will bring the world?s finest sailors to Dubai.”

The event – which gets under way on 13th November and will feature on-shore entertainment and a host of other activities – is also expected to put wind in the sails of the UAE tourism industry.

Businesses throughout the UAE are expected to benefit after the organisers of the 2009 Louis Vuitton Pacific Series reported that the 14-day festival injected US$12 million (Dhs 44 million) into the Auckland economy.

As well as Emirates Team New Zealand – featuring sailing great Dean Barker – and Artemis (Sweden), with the legendary Paul Cayard pulling the strings, the line-up is also expected to include: BMW ORACLE Racing (USA); Azzurra (Italy), TEAMORIGIN (Great Britain); Mascalzone Latino (Italy); Synergy (Russia); All4One (France/Germany); and Aleph Sailing Team (France).

Yves Carcelle, Chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton, said: “Louis Vuitton has been present in Dubai for more than 10 years. In 2010, we are thrilled to maintain this relationship through a great sailing event, while reinforcing the age-long Dubai tradition for regattas.”

Saeed Harib, President of the UAE Marine Sports Federation and CEO of DIMC, which will host the race, is delighted to be helping the growth of the sport in the region.

“Dubai was host to the Emirates Team New Zealand Pro Am Series in 2006 and Alinghi and Victory Challenge boats during the winter of 2007,” said Harib.

“With the Louis Vuitton Trophy, DIMC and our partners Emirates Airline are continuing that relationship and in doing so creating a new platform for the development of modern sailing in the region.”

Paul Cayard, Chairman of the World Sailing Team Association and skipper/strategist of Team Artemis, said: “I have been sailing in Dubai on several occasions. The conditions are ideal, the course is next to the shore and the atmosphere is exciting. DIMC is a fantastic host and I am sure our event here will open many eyes to this fantastic racing venue.”

The Louis Vuitton Trophy – which is split into two five-day rounds, followed by semi-finals and the finals run over two days each – will mark the start of the Sea Dubai Watersports Festival, under the patronage of HH Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The festival – now in its third year – will feature: the Dubai Shamaal World Surf Ski Championship; Oakley Riot World Wakeboard Tournament; UAE National Day Watersports Parade; Mina Mile Swimming Competition; Open Water Swim; Jet Ski Competition; Traditional 43ft Dhow Sailing Championship; and finishes on 11th December with the final round of the Class One World and XCat Powerboat World Championships.

For more information, visit: www.louisvuittontrophy.com

An unexpected opportunity

(January 5, 2010) Bob Little has played the game of sailing at nearly every level, and would have likely been racing a Lido 14 with his kids last November if not for an unexpected phone call and opportunity. Here is his story:

It wasn’t the type of phone call a guy like me would expect on a random late October night on the way home from work. It was a message from Paul Cayard asking if I would be interested in joining him and his RC44 program ‘Katusha’ as the Helmsman in their next event called the Gold Cup in Dubai. “Interested? Dubai? Paul Cayard? Me? Helmsman? Is this for real, I thought?”

I dialed him back and learned that he needed a helmsman for the fleet racing portion of the event who is qualified as a category 1 sailor and willing to make the trip to the UAE during the entire week of the Thanksgiving holiday here in the states. It took all of two minutes to get the support of my wife “Mrs Peaches” (more on that name later), so I jumped at the opportunity.

Now… I have sailed with Paul before on John Kilroy’s Farr 40 program, so this was not a total cold call? but why me? in this amazing event 8,500+ miles from home? Let?s be fair, I am not out sailing on a daily basis these days. And as far as Paul Cayard goes, I presume I am like most other sailors… more used to reading about him sailing around the globe or keeping up on his Volvo or America’s Cup email updates rather than fielding phone calls from ‘the man’.

Anyway, on Saturday, November 21st before Thanksgiving I was off to the Dubai, passport in-hand, ground transportation instructions and a target weight for the morning after arrival crew weigh-in. Having no cell phone or email reception the next morning, I found my way down to the dock where I saw an amazing line-up of these RC44’s. The shore teams were already populating the dock that morning with work lists and projects that needed to be done. The boats are a true sailor?s machine, designed by Russell Coutts and outfitted with the best equipment and pro sailors available on the planet.

So let’s see… I am in the office Friday in Los Angeles and Monday I am standing on the dock in Dubai ?not bad. A 1:00 pm dock start for starting practice that day got things rolling quickly and I definitely felt a bit rusty getting plugged into this great team of sailors. Hopefully, I would be a quick study as I was asked to play tactician while Paul drove the match race practice drills! After starting drills I was able to get some driving time in preparation for the fleet racing series later in the week. I can tell you that these boats are as hard to drive as they are fun. If you are off the pace, guys like Marco Contant and Robbie Naismith are quick to let you know your deficiencies and keep you focused!

After a couple more days of practice, we were ready to begin the event with the match race portion starting on Wednesday. We had a great series finishing 3:1 in light and shifty conditions but were penalized for an incident causing damage which deducted a couple points from our overall match race series score. Somewhere along the line Paul had written a daily report about my nickname “peaches”, which apparently clogged his email with responses, for which I apologized to him about… “Sorry about that Mr. Cayard”.

But for those interested, approximately 24 years ago I got crossed-up with some guys named Craig Leweck, Kimo Worthington and Billy Worthington doing an IOR boat delivery from LA to San Francisco for Big Boat Series, and yes, all I brought to eat for the entire six days at sea was Del Monte canned peaches. They starved, I was fine. End of story (P.S. they also thought they were pretty cool back then).

Friday dawned, the first day of fleet racing, and I was psyched to be behind the wheel of Katusha and give it my best. The conditions remained fairly light requiring major concentration and feel for the boat. It also reminded me that on every level, sailing boils down to the basics; getting line sights, judging the wind strength for boat set-up, checking current, sailing upwind to check speed, keep your head out of the boat, look for pressure, etc. But like all competitive classes it seems the whole fleet arrives at the first mark at the same time regardless of how good you start and how smart you sail. Clear air and positioning were key and we did a good job of always being in the game with finishes of 4-9-5-6-3-7-8*-10-7-4 (the 8* representing double points for our 4th place finish in the distance race, which was a tough race and a great experience in itself).

It was great sailing with Paul and all the guys on Katusha, I was truly honored to join them in Dubai; the whole event was very organized and professionally managed on and off the water. We had such a good time and I learned a lot. Departed the UAE Monday morning after Thanksgiving and after gaining 12 hours, I arrived in LA noon the same day.

Tuesday I was back at work reflecting on what seemed like a dream. I imagined it would be akin to an amateur golfer with a real job, being invited to play a scramble at the Masters at St. Andrews with the likes of Michelson, Woods, Furyk or Westwood; and then after a week in that environment returning to the office with just the reflection of an opportunity seized… and it all started with a phone call on a late October night.

When Bob isn?t fielding dream phone calls, he is a Project Manager in the commercial real estate industry.