The event marks the competitive debut of the Russell Coutts 44 racing boat, and the New Zealander is relishing the battle ahead against GRAM-HANSEN and a crew drawn from 2007 America's Cup challengers, the Italian-based Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team.
'The Dubai Match Race Challenge is a good chance to showcase the boat and learn more about the venue in preparation for future events,' said COUTTS, looking ahead to the action at Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) on 16-17 March. 'Perhaps more important than that, it is a good chance to promote sailing in that part of the world. They have a strong youth programme and it will be good for those sailors to see this type of racing.
'I believe there is a need to grow our sport through increasing the participation of our youth sailors. Dubai International Marine Club is doing a great job there. We need to make sailing more accessible and provide some exciting formats that young sailors can aspire to join. It seems that many events are concentrated in Europe and the USA but we should also have more events in Asia to expand the participation levels in sailing.'
The youth sailing programme launched six years ago by Saeed HAREB, Managing Director of DIMC, has boosted the popularity of sailing at schools and local clubs and produced a national team which does well at international level.
'The youth programme has already produced a European Champion as well as the first UAE national to qualify for an Olympic sailing event,' said Sid BENSALAH, sailing manager at DIMC.
The high performance composite-built RC 44 being launched in Dubai is being constructed to stringent CouttsJustin design specifications by Dubai-based manufacturers V1 Advanced Composite Technologies and Pauger Carbon from Budapest. 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 venue looks fantastic and the winds are very consistent,' said COUTTS. 'Typically there is a land breeze in the morning and a sea breeze in the afternoon. The match racing course is inside the Palm development, so the water is smooth and there are plenty of landmarks to define the race area. I believe it will become one of the best venues in the world to stage an international sailing event.'
Dubai International Marine Club and V1 Advanced Composite Technologies are working together to establish Dubai as a leading venue for match racing. Martin BENDER, Managing Director of V1, said, 'The Dubai Match Race Challenge is a very exciting new event and is already attracting a lot of attention from the international sailing community. We're all eager to see how the RC44 performs and we have some fantastic racing to look forward to.'