Sponsored by Van Oord, MMI and Thomsun/Yama, the DOSC round of the series sees the introduction of arbitration on the water by a team of international judges, a move which will test the tactical awareness of the leading skippers and could have a big influence on the series.
Appointed by the ISAF, the world governing body of sailing, the panel of judges will hand out instant penalties and possible disqualifications for rule infringements. With two more rounds of the Maktoum Sailing Trophy remaining next month, this new direction for keelboat racing in the UAE sets the stage for a big climax.
'Having the judges out on the water means everyone will have to be very careful with the tactics they employ, and the skipper who is the smartest and uses the rules best could grab a big advantage,' said regatta chairman Sid BENSALAH, sailing manager of the series' organizer, Dubai International Marine Club.
At least two of the leading challengers recognize the opportunity for them to close the gap on Horizon FCB. 'We'll be trying some new tactics this weekend and I think we've still got a good chance against them,' said Australian Mark FIELBERG, skipper of third-placed Serdal Dubai, which is owned by Sheikh Rashid BIN KHALIFA AL MAKTOUM. 'We may be able to take advantage of the new penalty system and there's going to be some exciting racing. We're a fast boat and we may be able to force some penalty turns at the start of races. That could allow us to get away and put some other boats between ourselves and Horizon. This is basic match racing tactics and all within the rules, and with three rounds to go we have no choice. I think our crew is up to it.'
David WORRALL (UAE), skipper of second-placed Sharazad, will not hesitate to use similar tactics, although he recognizes that this kind of strategy could also work against his crew. 'When you use more aggressive tactics to force other people into errors which can result in them having to take penalty turns you are utilizing the rules to your advantage,' he said. 'These are recognized tactics in match or team racing and we might have to employ them ourselves to stay out of Mark's way.'
The international panel of judges will be considering two appeals by WORRALL against race disqualifications earlier in the series, and he says: 'If the appeals go in my favour we could move three or four points closer to Horizon and that would make things very interesting.'
The talk of aggressive tactics and appeals has done nothing to unsettle Christophe VANEK (FRA), skipper of Horizon FCB, which is owned by Sheikh Khaled BIN ZAYED AL NAHYAN.
'Imposing penalties on the water is good because it means we won't have long protest meetings after races,' VANEK said. 'Tactics are a part of sailing around the world, but I don't think anyone is going to win the trophy just because of penalties. You have to sail fast to win races.'
Lying fourth overall, David ROSTANT, skipper of Switch Blade, agrees. 'It's a good thing to have judges out on the water, but I don't think it will change everything,' he said. 'The boat that sails the fastest will win the regatta.'
'Horizon has a good lead and it will be difficult for anyone to catch them. Whoever did well in the longer races was always going to have the series stitched up, and that's what they did.'
Top Ten Positions After 4 Of 7 Rounds
|1||Horizon FCB||Christophe VANEK||89|
|3||Serdal Dubai||Mark FEILBERG||76|
|4||Switch Blade||David ROSTANT||72|
|5||Xclusive||Yousef BIN LAHEJ||61|
|6||Southern Cross||Patrick CAHILL||46|
|7||Mina Effect||Brian HILLESDON||41|
|8||Shockwave Aquamarine||Alan SKENNERTON||35|