Among the leading contenders on the opening day of the Maktoum Sailing Trophy series was Yousef BIN LAHEJ, the first UAE national to qualify for an Olympic sailing event, in the Laser event.
Skippering Dubai International Marine Club's Amirah, and fourth across the line in the day's first race, he was forced to withdraw from the Athens Olympics last summer because of a back injury picked up during a World Championship event, but has now set his sights firmly on the 2008 Olympic Games in China. He is a product of the junior sailing programme instigated by DIMC where he is now the sailing department co-ordinator, and he is hoping to give Amirah a flying start in the Maktoum Sailing Trophy, which stretches over the next four months.
Among his other rivals in the opening two-day series was Sharazad skippered by David WORRALL, Vice-President of the UAE IRC Owner's Association, Aquamarine skippered by former rally driver Alan SKENNERTON, and Mina Effect, built and donated to DIMC by Salah BIN TOAK, President of the UAE IRC Owner's Association, and skippered by Brian HILLESDON.
The first IRC series to be held on a national level, the Maktoum Sailing Trophy is destined to take its place alongside the world's leading offshore races and is a key step towards boosting the popularity of sailing in the UAE and the rest of the Gulf.
The series is being staged with the support of the entire UAE sailing community, including Jebel Ali Sailing Club, Dubai Offshore Sailing Club and the Emirates Heritage Club Abu Dhabi, and three more races take place today (Friday), the first starting at 1100 and the other two following in the afternoon.
There was a sense of expectation yesterday as the first race got underway in a series that brings together a mixture of purpose-built racing yachts and racing cruisers ranging in length from 29-foot to 55-foot.
In contrast to this weekend's short 'around the marks' events, the Maktoum Sailing Trophy also features the 365-nautical mile ISAF Category 3 offshore course from Dubai to Muscat in March, as well as Dubai's the Around The World Race in April 2005.
Maktoum Sailing Trophy Calendar
16-17 December: DIMC Series
21-22 January: Dubai-Sir Bunair-Dubai Race
2-4 February: Jebel Ali Sailing Club Series
3 - 7 March: Dubai-Muscat Race
31 March-1 April: Dubai Offshore Sailing Club series
7-8 April: Dubai-Sir Bunair-Abu Dhabi Race
21-22 April: Final - Around The World Race