TALAH TURK (ABU DHABI)
Mubadala Abu Dhabi SailGP's Champions of Change Panel on Saturday set the stage for the inaugural Mubadala Abu Dhabi Sail Grand Prix, marking a pivotal moment for Mubadala and sailing enthusiasts alike. The event brought together leaders, athletes, and experts to discuss the championship's unique approach to sustainability and its broader impact on the environment, youth empowerment, and global climate initiatives.
In a welcome note, Hadi Alaskari, Mubadala's Vice President of Partnerships, Community Outreach, and Events, acknowledged the significance of the occasion, describing it as both a pivotal year for the company. Emphasising the company's commitment to responsible investing, he underscored Mubadala's ongoing support for initiatives combating climate change, labelling it as an "absolute existential crisis". Alaskari also expressed enthusiasm about the arrival of SailGP in Abu Dhabi, noting that 60 sailors have participated in foiling courses across Abu Dhabi, remarking on the partnership's positive impact already witnessed.
Championship for Change
During the first part of the panel discussion, moderated by David Garrido, the Presenter at Sky Sports London, participants delved into SailGP's Impact League, hailed as the event's "podium for the planet." It tracks the positive actions that teams make to reduce their carbon footprint and helps accelerate inclusivity in sailing.
Fiona Morgan, SailGP's Chief Purpose Officer, expressed enthusiasm about hosting the first Champions of Change in Abu Dhabi. She highlighted the fierce competition and explained that "it's all about reducing their carbon footprint; how they travel, and how they use their voice for good. what they eat."
Katja Salskov-Iversen, a strategist at Rockwool Denmark SailGP Team, shared her experience winning the Impact League, describing it as a "championship for change" and a "race for the future". She expressed hope that showcasing their sport on the water would serve as a powerful narrative, raising awareness about the urgent need to protect the ocean.
Morgan told Aletihad: "Abu Dhabi has been incredible. We came from Dubai and you would think that because they are in the same territory, they would be the same, but they are so different! What I love about Abu Dhabi is that you very much see the culture. It's not about overconsumption. It's actually about giving back, empowering young people, and doing things differently."
"Mubadala has been the core of opening Abu Dhabi to us. Having Mubadala as a partner is amazing; they're our biggest champion. They introduced us to the best partners and best suppliers to make sure this event is the best you'll ever go to," she continued.
Uniting for a Brighter Future
During the second session, Dr. Nikolas Meitanis, the Executive Director of Strategy and Corporate Development at Masdar, and Mirella Vitale, the SVP of Marketing, Communication and Public Affairs at Rockwool, underscored the imperative of collaborative efforts to aid nations in need, emphasising the essential global pursuit of climate-related objectives.
Both speakers concurred on the necessity for each company and individual to contribute their share, offering personal insights into their respective companies' initiatives. They discussed the renewable energy pledge that 118 countries signed during the COP28 climate summit, which Vitale noted is "the first time that this commitment has been put together," calling it a "great step forward."
Mubadala to Sponsor Emirati Sailor for 2028 Olympics In the third phase, Dhuha Mohammed Albeshr, an aspiring Mubadala INSPIRE excellence candidate, expressed her ambitious goals and articulated her determination to push herself in the upcoming years, striving to qualify for the LA 2028 Olympics. To which Homaid Al Shimmari, Deputy Group CEO and Chief Corporate & Human Capital Officer, responded by assuring Mubadala's sponsorship of her journey to Los Angeles in 2028, highlighting the company's commitment to supporting her aspirations.
Albeshr shared the narrative of her introduction to sailing, ignited by her father, and how her dedication to the sport led her to become part of SailGP. She elaborated on her decision to pursue studies in sustainability, emphasising the urgency of environmental conservation for future generations. Albeshr conveyed her appreciation to Mubadala and SailGP for the unique opportunity to venture to Chicago, sail alongside the Spanish team, and navigate the technologically advanced F50-an upgrade from her usual wooden boat.
Albesher told Aletihad: "I can feel the unwavering support of my country the UAE, as well as Mubadala. My father, of course, has been my biggest supporter pushing me in every way to keep going," she added.
Why did Mubadala and SailGP Join forces?
Al Shimmari provided insight into Mubadala's decision to forge a partnership with SailGP, saying: "When we were introduced to SailGP 18 months ago, we were inspired by the story. This racing event and upcoming brand that was nurturing something good, including sustainability and eco-friendly sporting events, whichare things that resonate really well with Mubadala."
Underlining sailing as an integral part of the UAE's history and heritage, which is currently fading, Al Shimmari deemed the introduction of the championship and its competitive spirit as added value for the UAE, especially among the youth.
"We want to diversify the economy and make it more knowledge-based, and this goes to show that," Al Shimmari added.
The Region's Invaluable Nature and Rich Biodiversity
During the final discussion Tatiana Antonelli, Founder and Managing Director at Goumbook, and Nicolas Heard, the Head of Fund Management at Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, highlighted the need for people to appreciate and better understand the value of nature.
Heard offered a positive perspective, noting a global surge in optimism. He highlighted increased funding, heightened awareness, and growing enthusiasm in the collective efforts to address climate change and promote sustainability.
Antonelli emphasised the Middle East's potential as an "open laboratory," particularly in its ability to thrive in harsh weather conditions. She pinpointed that raising awareness is a priority, noting that many expats lack sufficient knowledge about the region and its local biodiversity.