Our trip to the World Endurance Championships in Dubai 2005

It all started at the EGB National Awards in November 2004, when Karen Carruthers & Di Latham talked about going out to see the championships in Dubai. If you know Karen, once she say’s she wants to go somewhere, the next thing you know she has organised it and boy am I glad she did. I was fortunate enough to be able to go with Karen, Di & John Latham who are from the Heart of England group. We had a fantastic time and I have written a short diary about our venture to the desert. I hope you enjoy it.

Day 1 & 2
Our trip started on Monday 24 January, when I travelled over from the Isle of Wight, Di & John came down from Coventry. We all met up at Karen’s house in Chetsey as we had to be at the airport early on Tuesday morning. We set off to the airport and once checked in we went through to the departure lounge. How fast the time fly’s. There we were looking round the shops like you do, we thought about popping to the loo and suddenly you here last call for the 09-25 flight to Abu Dhabi - the bus is about to leave for the plane. Aghh! there was Di and I legging it down the corridor to the bus with minuets to spare, we got onto the plane and we were off. At this point, I still could not believe I was going to Dubai to see the championships.

On landing in Abu Dhabi, we went through Duty Free picking up essential drinking materials (Gin &Whisky) then on to customs who cleared that ok. Then the fun starts, we went to the Hertz counter to collect the 4X4 to start the journey to Dubai only to be told there was no car! That it was at Dubai airport waiting for us! John at this point I thought was very good, he stayed calm and said so how do you intend to get us there or what are our options. They offered us another car not a 4X4, John said but we want a 4X4. So of they went - they came back offering us a taxi, and the car to be delivered tomorrow morning. Bearing in mind Dubai was 100 miles away and it was starting to get late.
After deliberation, we decided to go for the taxi option, not sure how much it was going to cost, but as things were not going quite to plan, we thought it would be the safer option. We can always send the bill to Hertz. However, when the guy at the counter said it would be 170 Dirhams, we all looked at each other, got the calculator out and said that’s £25-00 pounds for 100 miles, go for it. We were assured the car would arrive at 9-00am the next morning at our apartment so off we went. As we were being driven to Dubai, we all decided it was a good move as it was a long drive and we were all a bit jet lagged at this point.
Once we arrived safely at the apartment, we meet John Hutton our host for the week (Karen & Duncan’s friend from Glasgow who moved out to Dubai a couple of years ago). John showed us to our rooms and after unpacking we thought we would have a drink or two to settle in. It is so nice when you first meet someone that you know you are all going to get on well. We had a great evening talking, telling jokes and having another drink or two. We stayed up quite late that night, some later than others. If you want to know what time everyone eventually went to bed then you will need to ask them!!.

Day Three
It only seemed a couple of hours later when the phone started ringing, it was hertz calling about the car. It was only 07-30 and yes it was only a couple of hours later. After a fruitful conversation, the car option kept changing, they even had the nerve to offer us a Mini Cooper to go out in the desert (don’t they know what we endurance riders drive?). Anyway, at 9-00am as promised our car arrived, and I can only say what a car, not only a 4X4, but a brand new Volvo. It was superb the negotiating paid off, well done to the two Johns.
After a quick dip in the pool to try to liven up, we girls went round to see Des, Gilly and Sally Payton who were staying just down the road from us, to see what the plans for the day were, and to collect the directions on how to get to the venue. That was a good move as you certainly needed them. All the time we were there, I think we only saw one sign to the endurance village and that was just as you arrived at the venue.
The Endurance village was about an hour’s drive from Dubai and was way out into the desert. Once we arrived at the village (I have to say at this point, it is where the wow factor was to set in) it was fab, huge and was out of this world; the Sheikh had done a marvellous job. We met up with lots of Brits and after having a good look round and waying up the best viewing points for race day, we all decided to go down the new oasis which had been built especially for the horses during the race to have a picnic. After a long night and day we retreated back to Dubai had dinner and then went to bed for a very early start, as we decided, we wanted to see the start of the race.

Day Four
We got up at 4-00am and set off for the endurance village. Can you remember the way john asks? Yep no problem I said. So off we set, having missed the turning - oops, we carried on down the main Abu Dhabi road and then took a left turning hoping we would get back onto the right road. We did, but a little to far down the road, so a quick U turn was needed (sorry guys for the cock up) and back up the road. We arrived just minuets after 6-00am and missed the mass start, but I think to our advantage. To see what we thought was a spectacular scene; all the horses came down to the road crossing just in front of us, so we saw them pass, what a fantastic sight! Then, well we could not believe our eye’s. All the crew cars were turned away from following the horses, they had to turn around, and go a different way. So in no particular order whatsoever, they all turned around and went hell for leather up the sand dunes. I’m not sure if any used the road, it was like a scene out of wacky races.
We then went up to the venue to watch the race. Having found Gilly & Sally we went in doors where we were treated to a hot breakfast and tea & coffee on tap. The race was live on TV, so we could watch the first stage in doors, as it was quite cold in the morning. It didn’t seem long before the first horses came back in, it all seemed to be well organised. The speed that the horses were being presented to the vets was amazing, it was really something when our first horse came home, it made you feel really proud of the girls. They all did so well, sadly not all got round, but I am sure it will be an experience they will never forget.
Well done to Sarah Tyson & Simbar who came a credible 39th in the world, with an average of 10mph; what a result. For more information about the ride and the rider’s experiences you can visit the EGB web site.
The day seemed to go quite quickly. It was quite exciting when the final vet gate came round, we were watching the finish on TV and it was just something else when the French horse came up unexpectedly. You could see the Arabs suddenly kick up a gear, we all went out side to see them home. It was a great finish and then waiting for the results the atmosphere was electric. It was a shame that the winning horse was then eliminated due to blood tests.** He was beautiful. I’m sure the French were very excited though.

When we got home we all sat down had a drink and recalled the day; it was defiantly one to remember.

Day five
This was another day to remember, as John H our host was going to Ali Ain to visit the International Air Show. He invited us to go with him; well this was another fabulous day out for all of us. We had a bit of fun finding our way there, as we thought John knew where he was going, and half way said ‘no not been their before so hey ho just follow the signs’. Our John had a little relapse now and again and forgot which was left and right, (it went something like so that’ll be your other left then John!!!) (sorry John had to put it in), but he got us there in one piece.

I have to say the organisers of this event certainly knew how to entertain the public and extract money from it’s visitors with souvenirs and food stands, which was something we did notice a shortage of at the endurance event. The air show was a day to remember and to cap the day John took us to dinner at the new lavish Madinat Jumeirah Beach Resort, where there is a magnificent creation of ancient Arabia. A beautiful Hotel, shopping and dinning area (wow wow) you can not believe it, unless you have seen it, just outstanding.

Day Six
Shopping day. After a couple of busy days at events, we girls thought we needed a bit of retail therapy. especially as we has arrived in the middle of Dubai’s shopping festival. We walked up the road from the apartment to the new indoor shopping mall called the Burjuman Centre. We entered mid morning and didn’t surface until late afternoon. You could shop till you drop here. I have to say I got a bit carried away in the Prada shop, but came to my senses before spending £150 on a pair of shoes (they were half price!). This evening Karen wanted to take us to the Jumeriah Beach Hotel where she had visited a couple of years ago with Duncan. The hotel again had the wow factor. It was just gorgeous. Firstly we went down to the beach for a quick paddle photo session with the new Burj Arab Hotel in the back ground. This building is just unreal, you can not believe how big it is, (watch out for the Emirates advert on TV), we then ate in the American restaurant, the hotel is based on the shape of a wave just fantastic.

Day Seven
Our last full day in Dubai - what shall we do today? Lets phone round and see what’s on offer? You can go for a camel ride, dune bashing or sand skiing. Dune bashing and camel ride sounds good, Karen said I will go for a camel ride - if it’s not like riding a donkey on Blackpool beach (you best ask Karen what it was like!). We went for the dune bashing and were out on the dunes for about an hour and half. You went up hill, down dale sideways, straight up, then down, then backwards. What an adventure, it was out of this world and the driver obviously enjoys his job - he surely knew how to handle that 4X4. this is definitely not for the faint hearted or those with a delicate stomach.
We then went back to the apartment got changed and set off to visit the Arabian Ranches Resort. This is a new housing development where you can purchase a house/villa. There is a brand new community centre, golf club and equestrian centre/ polo club being built along side it. Once completed, this is going to be one of the most exquisite resorts to live on in Dubai. We had a good look round the show houses and again the wow factor came in, they were beautiful, completed to such a high quality; serious thoughts for the holiday home.
It was then back to the apartment to pack and get ready to go to the airport. This was a little scary as Karen was on a stand by ticket and they could not tell her if she had a seat until the last minute. It was also very late at night and the thought of leaving her behind was not something I wanted to do or contemplate. Anyway, all was ok and we were off. Once on the plane we were on our way home. We arrived back at Karen’s about 7-00am had a cup of tea and then all said our good bye’s. But, I’m sure we will not forget this holiday in a hurry.
To sum up our holiday; we saw the biggest endurance event to date, made lots of new friends, had lots of laughs, so many jokes were told, the little quips to each other (keep up, are you still hungry, super sonic to name a few) and we saw so many beautiful sights. I have to say it has been one of the best holiday’s to date; Dubai is definitely one not to miss.
Thank you all for a great time I will never forget it.

Karen Whittington.

** Editors Note: The gold was withheld from Hachim illegally. No blood tests proved negative and the FEI confirm that Hachim is the winner of the 2005 World Endurance Championship. The FEI are still awaiting an explanation from the Dubai Organising Committee for its failure to award the Gold Medal to the winner, HH Sheikh Hazza bin Sultan al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi. Hachim is 100% Crabbet and was bred in England by Anne Brown of Gadebrook Stud.

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