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22 March 2006, 11:00 am
Fly Away Skipper Counts on Crew To Stay In Title Chase
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Maktoum Sailing Trophy 2006
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

David ROSTANT will be flying when he would prefer to be sailing this weekend, but he hopes his crew can keep him in the hunt for the most prestigious title in fleet racing the Gulf region has to offer.
An airline pilot by trade, ROSTANT is skipper of the 36.7ft racing yacht Switchblade in his spare time, and after guiding it to fourth place in the inaugural Maktoum Sailing Trophy last year he is in the same position as the 2006 series enters round two tomorrow (Thursday).

But while Switchblade aims to build on its solid start to the season over two days of short course racing at Jebel Ali Sailing Club, Australia-bound ROSTANT will be left to reflect on the biggest threat to his Maktoum Trophy Challenge.

'We're mostly pilots and engineers with Emirates (Airline) and the hardest thing about racing this boat is putting together a consistent crew,' he said. 'This weekend, for instance, I'm off to Melbourne and Cameron PRICE is going to take over as skipper.'

ROSTANT and his crew of amateur sailors have the potential to make a serious bid for the Maktoum Trophy, which is organised by Dubai International Marine Club. While the Pal Zileri Sailing Team dominated the first round earlier this month with four race victories out of five, Switchblade was the only other winner and took third place overall just behind defending champion Horizon FCB.

Maktoum Trophy 2

Despite the challenges his crew face combining work with top class fleet racing, ROSTANT, who learned to sail in Trinidad, believes his yacht could push for top spot.

'In the first round I thought we had an excellent regatta,' he said. 'The team has improved tremendously and we have the same speed over the water as Horizon. It's just that Horizon and Pal Zileri are a lot more consistent with their manoeuvres and make less mistakes. But if we're a little sharper there's no reason why we can't match them.'

Another skipper looking to fine tune his performances is Gil SMITH, who leads the Class 2 category in his yacht, Blitzem. SMITH is the only Kiwi in charge in a regatta that boosts skippers from eight different countries, including Germany, France, Italy, South Africa and Australia.

He aims to extend his lead over defending champion John ROSE'S Insatiable this weekend, and admits he has been inspired after watching Russell COUTTS win last weekend's Dubai Match Race Challenge at Dubai International Marine Club.

'I watched Russell COUTTS in the match racing against the Dane (Jes GRAM-HANSEN) on the Friday afternoon and it was just incredible seeing them manoeuvre before the start,' he said. 'It's got me motivated to go sailing.' SMITH won all five races in round one, but he knows Rose will not give up his title without a fight.

Some of the UAE's most talented young sailors will be among a multi-national line-up when the second round of the Maktoum Sailing Trophy gets underway tomorrow. Among them will be Ahmed SHAHEEN, already in the record books as the first and youngest UAE competitor to contest the Optimist World Championships, and brothers Yousef and Adil KHALID. They will be racing the DIMC yachts, Dubai 1 and Dubai 2, with their all-Emirati crews.

Maktoum Sailing Trophy 3

Regatta chairman Sid BENSALAH, sailing manager at Dubai International Marine Club, says the weekend will provide good competitive training for the Emirati teams as they prepare for the match racing event in the Asian Games in Doha.

BENSALAH said: 'Ahmad and Yousuf did well in the match racing series during the Dubai Junior Regatta in January, and while fleet racing is very different the competitive nature of the Maktoum Trophy will be good for all the youngsters.'

Enthusiasts can follow the series on the official DIMC website at www.dimc-uae.com/sailing/mstRacing starts at 1pm tomorrow (Thursday) at Jebel Ali Sailing Club with a good 12-14 knot north-westerly wind forecast suggesting fine conditions for the weekend.

Tony LEWIS (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Swtichblade in action © Tony LEWIS
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