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28 March 2006, 10:09 am
UAE Youngsters Aim For Glory
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ISAF Nations Cup 2006
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Some of the United Arab Emirate's most talented young sailors go back into match racing action next week, battling for honours at the ISAF Nations Cup Asia Regional Final. Ahmed SHAHEEN, already in the record books as the first UAE competitor to contest the Optimist Worlds, is amongst the competitors aiming to secure at place at the Grand Final in Ireland.
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SHAHEEN skippers one of three boats entered by Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) for the ISAF Nations Cup Regional Final is hosting from next Monday.

Another of the UAE's brightest young sailing talents, Yousef KHALID, skippers a second all UAE crew in one of eight Regional Finals being staged around the world over the next four months ahead of September's grand final at the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Ireland.

Valuable Experience

'This is another great chance for our top young sailors to get valuable competitive match racing experience in the build up to the Asian Games in Doha in December,' said Saeed HAREB, Managing Director of DIMC.

'Some of the top match racing teams in the world are trying to win their way through to the Grand Final of the ISAF Nations Cup, and our youngsters have the chance to join them,' he added.

Cedric LE REST will skipper the third DIMC boat entering the first of the Regional Finals in Dubai, along with crews from Dubai Offshore Sailing Club and the UAE Marine Sports Federation, as well as teams from India, Bahrain, Qatar, and Turkey.

World and Olympic Champions from across the globe will be involved in the Nations Cup, which also sees rounds being hosted in Finland, Portugal, Slovenia, Great Britain, South America, the US Virgin Islands and New Zealand.

Building On The Past

Re-launched this year by the ISAF and featuring open and women's events, the Nations Cup has been held three times previously. It began with an open competition in 1991, with American Ed BAIRD's victory in the Grand Final in Barcelona, Spain the climax of more than 1,000 match races sailed by teams representing 50 nations.

Two years later Dubai staged one of the qualifying rounds along with Finland, France, Peru, USA and Singapore, and Dutchman Roy HEINER went on to claim the open title, with Sweden's Helena STRANG winning the women's event.

The Nations Cup was last staged in 1995, and at the Grand Final in San Francisco South Africa's Bruce SAVAGE emerged victorious in the open event while Australia's Susan WALTERS captured the women's title. Yachting Australia have already announced that Nicky SOUTER will lead the defence of the women's title this year, while South African Sailing will be holding a series of events to decide who will defend the men's title.

A Global Event

The Nations Cup is shaping up to be a truly global event with over 50 entries, including the traditional match racing powers like New Zealand. In Europe a host of match racing stars are lining up to do battle. France will be represented in the women's event by Claire LEROY, who leads the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, while Olympic gold medallist Sofia BEKATOROU carries Greek hopes, and the American women's team will be led by two-time and current ISAF Women's Match Racing World Champion Sally BARKOW.

'The standard of match racing throughout will be very high, and by staging the first of the qualifying rounds we'll be setting the tone for the event,' said regatta chairman Sid BENSALAH, sailing manager at DIMC.

Following an opening ceremony at DIMC next Monday, teams will compete in a daily round robin series of match races leading to the final on Sunday week.

For a complete list of all the news from the ISAF Nations Cup 2006 CLICK HERE.
Tony LEWIS. Image, Some of the UAE's most talented young sailors go back into match racing action next week to fight for a place in the Grand Final of the ISAF Nations Cup:© Tony LEWIS
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