As a number of new contenders prepare to launch their 2006 challenge in the first of four rounds off Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, VANEK's crew, strengthened by a collection of European professionals, will start as the clear favourites.
Back to boost Horizon's bid, as he did on several occasions in the inaugural series, will be Alain FÉDENSIEU (FRA), who is this time joined by three other experienced Frenchmen, Nicolas MAGNAN, Philippe NAUDIN and Tanguy LIVET. Also on board will be three Italians, among them Mauro PIANI who sailed with VANEK as a member of the Italian Azzura crew in the 1983 and 1987 America's Cup.
'The guys coming in are all friends of mine and they're taking part for the fun of it,' says VANEK. 'Looking ahead to the weekend it seems that we're going to have light winds, up to a maximum of ten knots, which will be good for the medium size and smaller boats.'
Saeed HAREB, Managing Director of Dubai International Marine Club, the event organizers, said, 'Horizon dominated the event last year and they will start as the favourites again, but the we expect the series to be more closely fought this time. We have a number of new boats entered, and some of them are unknown quantities, so it will be interesting to see what happens at the weekend. The signs are that we could have a very close race for the title from start to finish.'
Among the new challengers preparing for the opening round's series of short course races on Thursday and Friday are Tissaheel 2, owned by Saeed bin DRAI and skippered by Australian Robert WEIGHT, Grace skippered by South African Mark DEVITT, and Goodrich Serdal skippered by Britain's Paul DILWORTH.
After finishing third overall last year, David ROSTANT (UAE) is aiming to step up his challenge this time in Switchblade, while Peter ELDRIDGE and Mike WHITE (GBR) are hoping for much better fortunes in Mina Effect which trailed in a disappointing eighth place in the inaugural series.
Two other newcomers to the series out to make an immediate impact in the first round are Pal Zileri skippered by Italian Kristian TZANOV and Yo! skippered by Toby O'CONNELL.
Like Horizon, John ROSE (GBR) will be aiming for a winning start in class two after his runaway title triumph last year, while Gil SMITH launches his challenge in Blitzem.
Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) has already announced that the Maktoum Sailing Trophy will take on a new ten day format next year to increase its international appeal. The event will be also given an extra dimension with the launch of an international sailing festival, the Mina Regatta, organised by DIMC in conjunction with Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina. Incorporating a sailing boat show and exhibition as well as a live music concert, the festival will be launched in May.