A young Emirati sailor is looking forward to participating in the next Olympic Games after some rigorous training during which he acquired many new skills from elite professionals in San Francisco, USA.

Hamza Al Ali, 20, one of the UAE’s champion sailors in the Laser Standard class, told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview on Friday: “I love sailing and I am looking forward to participating in top international competitions. I want to participate in the Olympics Games in 2024 and raise the UAE flag higher.”

He visited San Francisco with his coach for the finals of the second season of SailGP. The world’s top sailing competition that was held from March 26-27, saw teams from eight nations compete for a $1million prize on 15-metre long, high-performance, foiling catamarans, reaching speeds of more than 50 knots.

“I was looking forward to working with the best athletes in sailing and thank God it really happened,” he said.

“The SailGP Inspire programme was a great basis for me to learn many different elements of professional sailing.”

Al Ali’s participation was arranged and sponsored by Mubadala’s partnership with SailGP and the Mubadala Excellence Programme.

The Emirati youngster, who is also pursuing a media course at the Higher Colleges of Technology in Abu Dhabi says he’s passionate about sailing and the US stint would help him achieve his dream of being among the world’s best by taking part in top international sailing competitions.

Al Ali, who is a member of the Abu Dhabi Sailing Club, comes from a big family of 33 siblings, including 17 brothers and 16 sisters.

“I love sailing and my family has been venturing into the sea for many years,” said the Emirati sailor, who began sailing when he was only 10. “I began sailing about 10 years ago. The more I pursued it, the more I started falling in love with the sport. It is quite a hard dream to pursue and Mubadala has helped me get there,” he said.

The young sailor says it takes patience to get to where “you want to be and to train enough to attain your goal. It is not quick or easy to get to compete internationally. You need to work hard to achieve your dream.”

In San Francisco, Al Ali was pushed to his limits at the peak of competitive sailing. He took part in technical and classroom training sessions, and also gained practical work experience. He also got to hone his skills in sail handling by shadowing a professional race team, learning navigation, advanced seamanship and teamwork.

The young Emirati also experienced off-water elements of what a career in professional sailing could offer by working with organisers of SailGP on event management, photography, videography and marketing.

His coach, Zouhir Lebbit, who is also the national coach for the UAE sailing team says Al Ali is among the best in the UAE.

“He has a unique talent in sailing and is very eager to compete. He learned many new skills when he trained with top professional sailors in San Francisco,” said Lebbit.

Mubadala excellence programme

Established in January 2021, the Mubadala Excellence Programme supports talented young people in the UAE to excel in sports, art and literature.

Al Ali was selected for the programme due to his passion for sailing and achievements in a sport that demands strong discipline and commitment. Besides the Mubadala programme, he is being supported by SailGP Inspire, an initiative to provide life-changing career opportunities to young sailors and to diversify the sport.

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