Owned by Sheikh Khaled bin ZAYED AL NAHYAN and skippered by Frenchman Christophe VANEK, Horizon was the second boat to reach the finish in the Omani capital this morning (Sunday) but was a clear winner using the IRC handicap system in force for the seven-round Maktoum series.
Serdal Dubai, owned by Sheikh Rashid Bin KHALIFA AL MAKTOUM and skippered by Australian Mark FEILBERG, took line honours as the first boat to complete the demanding 365-nautical mile fourth round event, which was organised by Dubai International Marine Club and sponsored by Thuraya and SAFA CB.
But it was not enough to prevent Horizon FCB from clinching overall victory in the event for the second year running and taking a big step towards becoming the first winner of the Maktoum Sailing Trophy.
After reaching the finish at Marina Bander Al Rowdha at 08.44 today (Sunday), just 29 minutes behind Serdal Dubai, skipper Vanek and his crew, which included French Americas Cup captain Alain FEDENSIEU, were in a jubilant mood.
'We did everything right,' said Vanek. 'Around 04.30 this morning, after the storm, we were surprised to find ourselves in front of Serdal. They then found a bit of wind and were able to catch us and move ahead, but we're very pleased with the result. Alain and I worked well together and now we're looking good for the title, but there are still three rounds left and it's not over yet.'
Serdal Dubai skipper Feilberg said: 'We're very happy with our performance. At one point we were about five-and-a-half hours ahead of Horizon but they caught us up. The storm last night was a bit rough, although nothing we haven't seen before.'
Third to reach the finish, 2hrs 50 mins behind Horizon, was David WORRALL'S Sharazad. Worrall said: 'Last night we had 35 knots of wind when a squall hit us and destroyed our isometric spinnaker. It came out of the darkness and flattened the boat and put us on our side. It was gone in a couple of minutes.
It's pretty scary when something like that happens because you have no warning. But we're all fine. We had a great battle with Horizon all day yesterday and last night. They went inshore and we went offshore and around 4pm yesterday were only about half a mile apart.
But they got the jump on us and crept in just before the wind died, while we were basically going nowhere for about two-and-a-half hours this morning.
Added Worrall: 'This means it will be very difficult for us to catch Horizon now. We would need to win each of the three remaining races and rely on them to finish no higher than third or fourth, and that's very unlikely.'
Meanwhile the rest of the 14 survivors, including the two Oman Sailing Team challengers Al Bashiq and Al Uqab, were facing a late afternoon, evening or Monday morning finish owing to the effects of the overnight storm and the following calm which brought them to a virtual standstill.
Al Uqab suffered a double blow when its sail ripped and then a gas leak from the cooker led to a fire in the galley, but both Omani boats were still heading for the finish.
Speaking via the mobile satellite telecommunications link-up provided by sponsors Thuraya and SAFA CB, 90 nautical miles out from Muscat, Al Uqab skipper Mike HARRIS said: 'After the sail ripped, our first mate Hussain (Feer Mohammed Al Balushi) repaired it and we got going again, but then we had the galley fire and we had to use the extinguisher. With no cooker we've had no hot food since yesterday, but the morale is still high although we're not likely to finish now until tomorrow (Monday) morning.'
After the earlier retirement of the Qatari challenger Truly Sailing, skippered by Bassam ABU-ISSA and with Sheikh Ahmed BIN ALI AL THANI among the crew, Class 2 contender Goan Bananas was forced to withdraw on Saturday night after skipper Ged LANGOSZ suffered a head injury. He was guiding the boat to harbour at Fujairah.
Regatta chairman Sid BENSALAH, sailing manager for Maktoum Sailing Trophy organisers Dubai International Marine Club, said: 'The event has been very successful and with three rounds remaining we're looking forward to an exciting finish to the series over the next few weeks.'