Dubai Shamaal – the Night before the Storm

Thursday, 02 December 2010 21:35 | Written by 
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Tim Jacobs demonstrates how he's not going to start tomorrow! Tim Jacobs demonstrates how he's not going to start tomorrow! Credits: Rob Mousley,

I’ll be on the lead escort boat tomorrow with the other media crews, watching what is shaping up to be the most competitive surfski race ever.  Race commentary will start on from 14h00 Dubai Time.

Weather Forecast and course

Paddlers who went out today for a last pre-race cruise this afternoon reported that the breeze was strong enough to raise 1-2ft bumps almost to the point of white horses.  But not quite.


The forecast is for an 8-10kt strengthening northerly wind tomorrow afternoon and the race start has been delayed by 30mins to take advantage of it.

The course is that previously published – the race opposite The World – one of the manmade islands here in Dubai.

Dubai Shamaal Northern Course - The World

The paddlers will head a couple of km out into the wind before turning back towards The Palm, with the wind almost directly behind them.

The first 5km or so are expected to be flat – and exceptionally competitive as the likes of Ben Allen rocket away from the start.  As they emerge from the shelter of the World, the waves will start to build, and if conditions are as expected, there will be a little help from the bumps – but the paddlers will be moving at almost the same speed as the wind, so heat could play a significant factor for those not used to it.

The final four km under the base of the Palm will be on glassy flat water and the organisers have gone to great pains to ensure that escort boats are nowhere near the pack at that point, so as to reduce the likelihood of boat wakes playing an unwanted part in the results.

Women’s Race

Some fifteen women are taking part, three of them in doubles, close to a record; way to go, girls!

My prediction for the front three?  Nikki Mocke, Ruth Highman and Michele Eray, not necessarily in that order.  A question mark hangs over Eray’s fitness after she seems to have caught a cold in the plane from Cape Town.  Hopefully she will be able to give the race her all – she and Nikki Mocke have been in great form over the past few weeks, with Eray pipping Mocke at the SA Champs, and then winning convincingly in a series race in Cape Town two weeks ago.

Ruth Highman and Chloe Bunnett

Bunnett (UK) has her sights on Highman (Aus)

Mocke is known to prefer big downwind conditions – will she have the fitness and stamina to grind out the flat yards tomorrow?

Wash riding skill will play a huge part tomorrow…

Australian Ruth Highman denied that she’d acquired the nickname “death to wind” and insisted that it was sheer coincidence that all the international races she’s attended recently have seen flat calm conditions.

Chloe Bunnett on the other hand (fourth tomorrow if my predictions hold true) said that her race prep had gone well.  Training in Tenerife over the last three weeks, she avoided the deep freeze currently under way in the UK – and she’s been paddling in wind chop very similar to the conditions she found this afternoon.  Although her stated goal is simply to “do better than last year”, she was casting predatory looks in Highman’s direction.

Men’s Race

The elite men were looking relaxed today at the race venue (the paddlers village at the Dubai International Marine Club) – setting up their craft; attaching the sponsors’ stickers and going for short nerve-settling paddles.

The top ten for this race?  (Taking 5 from each of SA and Aus)

  • Hank McGregor (SA)
  • Dawid Mocke (SA)
  • Matt Bouman (SA)
  • Grant van der Walt (SA)
  • Sean Rice (SA)
  • Tim Jacobs (Aus)
  • Jeremy Cotter (Aus)
  • Murray Stewart (Aus)
  • Ben Allen (Aus)
  • David Smith (Aus)

And that still leaves

  • Cory Hill (Aus)
  • Michael Booth (Aus)
  • Tony Schumacher (Aus)
  • Mark Anderson (Aus)
  • Tom Schilperoort (SA)
  • Jasper Mocke (SA)
  • Barry Lewin (SA)
  • Herman Chalupsky (SA)

Just to make the top twenty will be a phenomenal achievement in this race.  Can’t wait!



TJ – doing what he likes best

Tim Jacobs is in fine form, having won almost every race he’s entered this season.  “I’m just enjoying life at the moment,” he said.  “I get up every morning and do what I love – and I get paid for it.  Life doesn’t get any better.”

Jacobs coaches both kayaking (four Olympic hopefuls in the squad) and surfski – and has enough time to devote to his own training.  “I’ve been doing maybe a total of fifteen hours a week, including the gym work,” he said.

At my request, Jacobs demonstrated a lifesaving style start.  (The guys are not likely to do this tomorrow - the risks of making a mistake far outweigh the potential benefits.)


Chris Camilleri

The big man from Birkirkara found freedom when the DSKC donated six surfskis to the Malta Kayaking Club last year.  One of the skis arrived badly damaged – a V10 ultra, that Camilleri lovingly repaired over the course of a couple of months with help and advice from Epic’s European rep, Boyan Zlaterev.


“That V10 is like my baby,” grinned Camilleri.  “And after five years of training on K1s in the Marina, I felt such freedom in the ski.”

Camilleri has started a training program for guppies.  “It’s really cool,” he said.  “We have kids of seven years old swaggering along with their little paddles.”  Two squads of fifteen kids each train during the week and on weekends.

Aleksy, Dmitri, Alexandr, Igor

"Ah,!", one of them said, "Is reason we know about zis race and vhy ve are here!"  Music to my ears!

The four Russians are haven't been training much on the water recently.  "Is minus 26 in Moscow today!"


The Russian Quartet

Paddle for the Planet

After the race briefing, Wayne Randal presented the Paddle for the Planet project.

We’ll have more on this in the coming weeks and months, but suffice to say that it’s a truly sensational project designed to allow paddlers of all kinds across the globe to demonstrate commitment and take positive steps to reverse the over-exploitation and destruction of the oceans.

Paddle for the Planet

Wayne Randall presents Paddle for the Planet to the packed audience

Go to and register.  Now!


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