A cry goes up from the assembled crowd as the first of the boats comes into view. As the frontrunners speed towards the finishing line, no 20 is a clearly ahead of its rival by a half boat's length.

By Robert Flemming (Staff Reporter)

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Published: Sat 15 Apr 2006, 12:48 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 4:23 PM

Both coxes urge their rowers to ever greater efforts and the gap between the two prows begins to close. Muscular arms straining in unison, the boats are side by side and the oars appear to commingle. With only a matter of yards to go, no 52 edges ahead to the enthusiastic shouts of the watchers on the rocks.

'Wadi, Wadi' is the chant from some as no 52 crosses the line less than half a length in front of the erstwhile leader. The 'Wadi Wesam' coxed by Jasim Rashid Al Za'abi has just won the first race of three in the 4th and final heat of the Traditional Rowing Boat Race held in the mouth of Dubai Marina.

Held four times per annum, the races are more of a sprint than an endurance test but the rowers require strength, stamina and skill in order to compete and win. The sleek long wooden boats built on traditional lines are crewed by ten rowers and a coxswain come helmsman. And the races themselves prove how much effort and practice the crews have put into their training. For the uninitiated, the races are a great spectacle but for the true followers of the sport a win is everything.

In the first race, no 52 'Wadi Wesam' won the day in a head to head with no 20; boats no 26 and 63 coming in at positions three and four respectively. The second race was less of a challenge as Ahmed Ebrahim Rashid pushed his crew on 'Al Zahabr' (no 4) to pass the winning post some 20 yards clear of no 3, his nearest rival. In third place was boat no 7 with no 13 coming in in fourth place.

As the teams in the final race of the day came into sight there appeared to be a battle royal being fought on the water. But as they came closer, no 16 took a clear lead. As muscles flexed rhythmically in time with the dip of the oars, the churn of water around the blades showed that there was often little time to think of feathering. However, brute strength overcoming technique, 'Al Yah' coxed by Saif Khalaf Al Matari came home with a creditable win some 15 yards ahead of rival boat no 1 closely followed by 66 and 5 in third and fourth places.

As the teams pulled the boats out of the water the crowd quickly dispersed to go to the awards ceremony. The finishing line buoys disappeared from the water and the rocks were returned to the gulls. Excitement over — until next time.

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