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16 March 2006, 02:15 pm
COUTTS Primed For Tough Showdown
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Dubai Match Race Challenge 2006
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Three-times America's Cup winner Russell COUTTS (NZL) and Danish star Jes GRAM-HANSEN are primed for an intense two day battle for supremacy in the Dubai Match Race Challenge starting in the United Arab Emirates this afternoon.
COUTTS goes into the event at Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) knowing he faces a big challenge from GRAM-HANSEN who is eager to record his first match racing victory against the most successful helmsman in America's Cup history.

Both men will take experienced crews into battle as they give a competitive debut to the new high performance composite built RC 44 (Russell Coutts 44) racing boat.

Dubai-based V1 Advanced Composite Technologies is working with Pauger Carbon from Budapest, Hungary to construct the RC 44s to stringent CouttsJustin design specifications, and V1 believes the boat can become one of the world's most exciting and sought after racers.

Saeed HAREB, Managing Director of Dubai International Marine Club, said the Dubai Match Race Challenge is part of a wide ranging plan to elevate the status of sailing in the emirate.

'We're committed to supporting the ISAF, the world governing body of sailing, in its efforts to increase the sport's popularity worldwide,' said HAREB. 'Our plans include the opening of a new, state of the art sailing academy next year at DIMC, the expansion of our junior training programme, and the staging of many more international events.'

Working Towards A World Class Venue

V1 Advanced Composite Technologies is working with DIMC to establish Dubai as a world class venue for international match racing which made a highly successful debut in the emirate in January with a week long series won by Germany.

Martin BENDER, V1's Managing Director, said, 'The launch of this event is an important step in the development of the region's marine industry. Through our partnership with DIMC we are taking sailing to a new level here, and bringing Dubai to the attention of the international sailing community as a venue. Coupling the latest production technologies with Russell's intricate knowledge of the sport, we have delivered a highly competitive boat that will be instrumental in the development of competitive boat racing.'

COUTTS' Dubai Match Race Challenge crew features Swiss Julien DI BIASE, Croatian STIPE Vitaljic, Italian Massimo SIRENA and Danes Chresten PLINIUS and Peter POULSEN.

GRAM-HANSEN, one of the rising stars of match racing, will be supported by some members of the Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team America's Cup challemger, including fellow Dane Rasmus KOSTNER, Malta's Chris DOUGALL, and Italy's Alberto BAROVIER, Michele PAOLETTI and Vasco VASCOTTO, who has won more world sailing titles than any other Italian.

COUTTS Gears up

COUTTS is looking forward to sailing competitively in Dubai for the first time, although he expects a tough two days of match racing. 'We're sailing with only six crew which will make things pretty physical in a 44 foot boat,' he said.

'Like the America's Cup boats, the RC 44s are equipped with a string dropping system for the gennakers. The crews are having to adapt to the winch layout and systems for gybing and dropping the gennakers, which are pretty big. It will be hard work.'

GRAM-HANSEN Anticipates Tough Challenge

GRAM-HANSEN said, 'Russell is the toughest opponent you can have in match racing. I've only raced against him a few times over the years, and he's the only match race sailor I've never beaten. Hopefully I can change that in Dubai.'

The Dubai Match Race Challenge will feature six 20 minute rounds of close combat match racing on a virtual square course set between Dubai International Marine Club, its beachside Le Meridian resort hotel and the Palm Jumeirah breakwater.

The setting is emerging as a stage for top class international sailing, giving spectators a close up view of all the race action, something that impressed ISAF President Göran PETERSSON on a recent visit.

Dubai International Marine Club is also laying on spectator boats, with places allocated on a first come, first served basis. The activities get under way at 1430 local time today with a series of Optimist and Laser events featuring many of the UAE's best young sailing talents, before the match racing begins at 1600.

Tony LEWIS (As Amended by ISAF). Image, Gearing up for the start in Dubai:© Tony LEWIS
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