Abacus Lighting

Unique Floodlighting project transforms Dubai Racecourse

Building on the continued success of the World Cup Race held at the Nad Al Sheba Race Track, Dubai Racing Association has commissioned a new Main Grandstand to extend the seating capacity at this prestigious race track.

Nad Al Sheba grandstand lighting

For Abacus, this has lead to yet another contract being awarded for the installation and commissioning of over 70 Challenger® 3 floodlights to be mounted on the front canopy of the newly constructed Main Grandstand.

This new floodlighting installation on the grandstand roof was commissioned by Abacus Engineers in time for the next World Cup Race on March 24th.

This is the third floodlighting installation awarded to Abacus in the past 25 years and reflects on the relationship and commitment that has been built between Dubai Racing Association and Abacus Lighting.

The last project Abacus won involved a total of 1700 floodlights, each rated at 2kW, light the course, which is believed to be the world's largest sports floodlighting project - the equivalent of six Premier League football stadia. However, perhaps the most remarkable fact is that the installation and commissioning was completed within four months of the purchase order being placed, or around half the time that would normally be required.

Abacus Lighting won the contract for the Dubai Racecourse project following an international tendering process. Discussions had been ongoing for 18 months, during which time a design had been proposed and subsequently vetted and approved by the Engineers Office.

As soon as the purchase order was placed in December 1998, work began on manufacturing the masts and headframes in Abacus’ factory. Lamps were ordered from Osram, and after initial disbelief over the quantities involved, easily delivered the consignment on time. Meanwhile, on site at Dubai, the piling commenced for the foundations for the masts. This was a critical part of the project because the Nad Al Sheba racetrack is constructed on tidal sands. Although the design for the piling was completed by Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall, the project consultants, Abacus undertook the design of the reinforced concrete caps on the piles to take the mast bases.

To achieve the desired lighting levels, the lighting design utilised 29 masts to illuminate the entire race track, all of the masts being 35m tall with bases 720mm square. The masts had to present as small an obstruction to the view as possible and the headframes were required to be as slimline as current lighting technology would allow. More importantly, the floodlights are expected to be in use for many years, so the long-term cost of ownership was an important issue, which led to a desire to maximise the energy efficiency and minimise the maintenance costs of running the lighting system.

In order to minimise the time required to install and commission the floodlights, and to reduce the cost of subsequent maintenance, the world renowned base-hinged raising and lowering masts were specified. These have the advantage that, using a portable hydraulic counterbalance, they may be safely lowered to ground level to allow the assembly and maintenance to be carried out without the need for mobile platforms - which can cost as much as £1000 per day to hire. The base-hinged arrangement also allows a slim mast design without the need for ladders or any other provisions for access. An additional benefit of the mast is that when it is returned to the upright position, the floodlights are in exactly the same position as they were previously, ensuring that there is never any question over the aiming of the floodlights.
In order to meet the tight deadlines, the staff at Abacus worked overtime and through the Christmas and New Year break. Utilising state of the art manufacturing technology including Abacus" advanced CAD system; production proceeded quickly and without a hitch. The masts were made from three tapered sections that were a friction fit with each other, and the sections were made up of two halves welded together. Each steel sheet was profiled with a CNC plasma-cutting machine, with the data downloaded directly from the CAD system.

The profiles were then formed into the half-polygon troughs using a press brake, which, at 1300 tonnes capacity and with a 15m long bed, is the largest in the UK.

Pairs of troughs were welded together with a laser-guided automatic welding machine; finally, all of the masts and headframes were galvanised. Throughout the manufacturing process, quality control was as tight as ever, with the ISO 9001 quality assurance procedures being followed rigorously.

The customer, who recommended M & M Freight Services, arranged shipping to Dubai. To meet the project schedule, two shipments were arranged: the first at the beginning of February and the second was two weeks later. Some 100 tonnes of Steelwork was air-freighted from East Midlands airport and the rest of the equipment was driven overland to Italy and sent by sea from there. Once the equipment arrived in Dubai, the next stage was to install and commission the project within a tight time frame. For a continuous two-month period, there was always an engineer from Abacus on site in Dubai, first to supervise the installation and then to carry out the commissioning. An engineer was also on duty at the track during the all-important race meeting.

Nad Al Sheba Racecourse

Because of the need to televise the race, careful consideration needed to be given to the lighting design of the floodlighting system. To ensure the uniformity of the lighting, each of the 1700 floodlights had to be individually aimed at a predetermined marker on the ground. This is achieved by the commissioning lighting engineer fixing a telescopic gun sight to the luminaire and aiming at discs that are accurately positioned on the ground. Abacus used the compact AM570 series parabolic floodlight, which uses the Osram HQI-TS 6000K daylight lamp, rated at 2kW. This is extremely small for its power and has proved to be highly reliable. Two types of floodlight were used, one having a wide beam spread and the other with a medium beam spread. Both types have a sharp cut-off, which makes the lighting levels predictable and limits the amount of overspill.

Whilst the specification for the floodlighting allowed a maximum variation of +/-10% in the lighting levels, the post-installation check showed that the largest variation was +2%, illustrating the effectiveness of the lighting system and stability of electricity supply. The floodlighting system was purposely designed so that it could be switched to illuminate either of the two parallel racetracks - one grass, the other sand - or both. Lighting levels were specified to 800 lux for the majority of the track, 1200 lux on the final 400m finishing straight and 2000 lux over the finishing line. Willie Carson, the ex-jockey, was commentating on TV for the World Cup race and said afterwards "It’s like daylight down here!" This remark encapsulates many of the comments made by the jockeys, commentators and spectators.
Abacus had originally installed a floodlighting system at the Nad Al Shebatrack some four years ago, but this was primarily for the benefit of the spectators. Now that the World Cup race is broadcast by satellite to a worldwide audience the 350 lux lighting levels needed upgrading for the televised race. Consequently, the new multi-million pound floodlighting project went ahead, with Danway as the main contractor in Dubai. One indication of the substantial size of the project is the fact that three purpose built electricity sub-stations had to be constructed around the track to provide the 3.6MW of power required.

Nad Al Sheba Racecourse

The masts have a life expectancy of over 25 years and the floodlights should last for 10-15 years. Annual maintenance activities will range from cleaning and re-lamping to structural and electrical tests leading up to the racing season.

Despite the strength of the Pound, Abacus was able to win the Nad Al Sheba contract against strong overseas competition. This was due to a combination of the product design, the broad-ranging expertise required to supply the complete floodlighting system, and the flexibility of the company that allowed it to meet the tight timescales. Other factors that helped with the success of the project include the rigorous project planning and the way in which Abacus was able to develop strong working relationships with the project consultants and other contractors. One of the main sponsors of the World Cup race was so impressed with the floodlighting system that Abacus has already received an order to floodlight a nearby cricket stadium in Dubai.

Typical Base-Hinged Sports Mast lowered for maintenance.

Typical Base-Hinged Sports Mast lowered for maintenance.

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