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19 December 2004, 11:15 am
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Maktoum Sailing Trophy
Dubai

The launch of the Maktoum Sailing Trophy series has given an immediate boost to the sport in the UAE, creating a superb opportunity for local crews to test their skills against some of the world's most experienced competitors.
Former World Offshore champion Alain Fédensieu, leading a new French challenge in the 32nd Americas Cup, guided Horizon FCB to a convincing overall victory in the first of seven rounds at the weekend as the new IRC class event got off to a perfect start. But while Fédensieu at times looked in a class of his own, his four straight race wins inspired some of the UAE's top crews who hit back to relegate Horizon to third place in the fifth and final race of the Dubai International Marine Club IRC event.

Taking second place overall was Switch Blade skippered by David ROSANT, with former UAE rally driving champion Alan SKENNERTON finishing third in Shock Wave Aquamarine. Final race winner David WORRALL, skipper of Sharazad and vice president of the UAE IRC Owner's Association, would have fared better than his fourth place overall but for a brush with Switch Blade which led to his disqualification in race four. But Worrall was in a buoyant mood at the finish, singing the praises of the race series for the new IRC class of boats and savouring the chance to compete against Fédensieu and the other stars now certain to follow him into the Maktoum Sailing Trophy.

'To race against people of that calibre is a great opportunity, and it's nice to know that we could respond and close the gap at the end,' he said. 'I've been sailing here for eight years and that's the best sailing I've ever experienced. It was so busy, the courses were short and the competition was fierce so if you made one mistake you lost one or two places. The boat that led from the start won every race.

'It's taken sailing here to a completely different level. We'd won seven out of nine races this season at Dubai Offshore Sailing Club and we thought we were going to win again, but we made mistake after mistake.'

Having made the long haul from his Welsh island base of Anglesey to adjudicate over the introduction of the Maktoum Sailing Trophy, Principle Race Officer Mike BUTTERFIELD was equally impressed by the event, and by the way the UAE crews refused to let Fédensieu escape over the horizon.

'He didn't have it all his own way,' said the UK national sailing judge. 'As the event progressed the local crews responded and raised their level of their performance, so the experience has been good for them.'

Highlighting the variety provided by the Maktoum Sailing Trophy after the weekend's 'around the marks' short course racing, the next of seven rounds is the 108-nautical mile Dubai-Sir Bunair-Dubai Race on January 21-21, and enthusiasts can follow the series on the official DIMC website at the address below.

Among those who can't wait for round two is Skennerton, a former Oman International Rally winner who retired from motor sport ten years ago and is now steering one of six new 36.7ft boats bought from Europe to contest the series.

'It's a great idea, and it's given sailing a boost here already,' he said. 'The racing is very close because all the boats are evenly matched.' One of the highlights of the Maktoum Sailing Trophy will be the 365-nautical mile Dubai to Muscat race in March, with the final round being the Around The World Race circling Nakheel's landmark development in Dubai in April.

Maktoum Sailing Trophy: DIMC Series Results:

Race 5- Class 1:

1. Sharazad (David Worrall);

2. Switch Blade (David Rosant);

3. Horizon FCB (skippered by Alain Fédensieu);

4. Amirah (Yousef Bin Lahej);

5. Shock Wave Aquamarine (Alan Skennerton);

6. Southern Cross (Patrick Cahill);

7. Serdal Dubai (Mark Feilberg);

8. Twister (Karen Rowlands);

9. Mina Effect (Brian Hillegsdon).

Class 2:

1. Insatiable (John Rose);

2. Irene (John Ford);

3. Binker (Ben Trenouth);

4. Goan Bananas (Ged Langosz).

Nett positions - Class 1:

1: Horizon 43;

2. Switch Blade 37;

3. Shock Wave Aquamarine 30;

4. Sharazad 29;

5. Amirah 29;

6. Southern Cross 19;

7. Serdal Dubai 18;

8. Twister 13;

9. Mina Effect 6.

Class 2:

1. Insatiable 16;

2. Irene 9;

3. Binker 9;

4. Goan Bananas 5.

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