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7 April 2006, 03:38 pm
India Book Grand Final Passage
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ISAF Nations Cup 2006
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Asian Champions India led by skipper Mahesh RAMCHANDRAN booked their passage to the Grand Final of the ISAF Nations Cup by the narrowest of margins today, edging out Turkey to win the ISAF Grade 2 Regional Final for Asia in Dubai, UAE.
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The two crews finished tied at 2-2 in the final after the wind died for a second day in succession at Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC), forcing race officials to abandon the decisive leg in the best of-five showdown.

The Indians won their place in the Nations Cup Grand Final at the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Ireland in September as they had topped the three day round robin series leading up to the knockout stages.

As the only all women team of the event, Bekky BRITTON's UAE team also qualify for the Grand Final.

RAMCHANDRAN Reflects On Victory

'The wind was up and down so it wasn't easy, and the other boat was a little faster in light winds,' said RAMCHANDRAN. 'But as long as there was enough sailing breeze we were always confident we could win.'

Looking ahead to the Grand Final in Ireland, he said, 'They're using J/24s there and we sail those in Bombay regularly, although the level of competition will be higher so we'll have to step things up a bit.'

Currently 73 in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, RAMCHANDRAN and his crew justified their billing as the pre event favourites, although they were made to fight all the way by World number 160 Orkun SOYER and his Turkish challengers.

The Day's Action

On a day when the lightest of winds put the emphasis on patience and guile, SOYER won the opening match to suggest that the Turkish team could halt the Indians' winning run after their national title in January and an Asian match racing gold medal in February.

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The winning Indian team in action
© Tony LEWIS
But RAMCHANDRAN hit back immediately to level the final and then went 2-1 ahead, despite having to make an urgent adjustment in the third match when his spinnaker's halyard broke. SOYER came back again to win the fourth match before the wind deserted the decisive leg to bring the final to a halt.

Turkish Scare

Turkey had survived a big scare before reaching the final. The Jebel Ali Sailing Club team skippered by 23 year old Christopher GRAHAM (UAE) had been on the verge of victory in their semi-final clash on Thursday evening when the wind dropped, resulting in the decisive leg being abandoned with the Dubai crew holding a winning position.

When the contest resumed in the morning, the SOYER took control after inflicting a crucial penalty on GRAHAM who was unable to recover.

'We were a bit lucky when the wind died on us last night, but these things happen,' said GRAHAM, who has lived in Dubai for 20 years. 'We had only a day and a half getting to know the boat before the event and the first day was pretty much a learning curve for us, which is why we lost all our races. But the second day was better and we were improving all the time.'

India had beaten the host club's crew skippered by Cedric LE REST (UAE) 2-0 in their best of three semi-final. LE REST, the marina manager at DIMC, had two of the event's youngest competitors in his crew, with 16 year old Josie WALSH and 15 year old Max BUERGER stepping up to join three members of his Maktoum Sailing Trophy team. 'We certainly had more time together than Chris [GRAHAM] had with his crew,' said LE REST. 'The crew worked very hard. We had some good races and some bad ones.'

Dubai Aim To Build Match Racing Legacy

Dubai International Marine Club is already looking forward to a new season of top class match race sailing next year. The popularity of match racing in the UAE has been boosted by Emirates Airline's sponsorship of Team New Zealand, one of the leading challengers for the America's Cup, the most famous match racing event in the world.

DIMC is working with the ISAF, the world governing body of sailing, to establish the UAE as one of the world's leading match race venues, and the ISAF Nations Cup Regional Final was part of this process.

Sid BENSALAH, sailing director at DIMC, said, 'We're committed to taking sailing to a new level in the UAE and the Gulf region as a whole, and we're working closely with ISAF to make this happen. We're putting a big emphasis on match racing because there is a strong local demand for this kind of racing and it's a very exciting form of sailing.'

Next year's Dubai Junior Regatta in January will include a match racing event while a UAE Match Racing Championship will be launched and the UAE will also plan to stage at least two ISAF Graded match race regattas.

The Dubai Regional Final of the ISAF Nations Cup will be followed by other qualifiers in Finland, Portugal, Slovenia, Great Britain, Brazil, the US Virgin Islands and New Zealand over the next four months.

ISAF Nations Cup Regional Final - Asia Results


Mahesh RAMCHANDRAN (IND) d. Onursal SOYER (TUR), 2-2
(RAMCHANDRAN wins due to round robin standings)


Onursal SOYER (TUR) vs. Christopher GRAHAM (UAE), 3-2
Mahesh RAMCHANDRAN (IND) vs. Cedric LE REST (UAE), 2-0

Round Robin

1. Mahesh RAMCHANDRAN (IND), 11-1
2. Onursal SOYER (TUR), 11-1
3. Christopher GRAHAM (UAE), 6-6
4. Cedric LE REST (UAE), 5-7
5. Bekky BRITTON (UAE), 2-10
6. Ahmed SHAHEEN (UAE), 2-8
7. Yousuf KHALID MOHAMMAD (UAE), 2-10

For a complete list of all the news from the ISAF Nations Cup 2006 CLICK HERE.

Tony LEWIS. Image, Mahesh RAMCHANDRAN's Indian team celebrate victory:© Tony LEWIS
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