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3 April 2006, 09:59 am
Cup Launches Into Action
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ISAF Nations Cup 2006
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The 2006 ISAF Nations Cup gets underway today, with Dubai, UAE hosting the first of eight ISAF Grade 2 Regional Finals. The Regional Final for Asia sees recently named Asian Sailing Champions India go up against the UAE and Turkey, in the first of a series of battles around the globe to find the world's top match racing nation.
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The two home UAE national crews were announced on Sunday for the five day ISAF Nations Cup Regional Final for Asia at the Dubai International Marine Club. Two five-man UAE crews were selected from a 20 strong squad which underwent training at the host venue.

The UAE's Italian coach Raymondo TONELLI has named Ahmed SHAHEEN to skipper a crew featuring his brother Omar as well as Adil DIABLO, Jassim EHAB and Ibrahim AL DOWAIS.

They have also been nominated as the official UAE representative in the event and will be battling against India and a Turkish crew skippered by Onursal SOYER for the men's Grand Final qualifying spot.

The second UAE crew will be skippered by Yousuf KHALID MOHAMMAD who will be joined by his brothers, Adil and Hamad, as well as Tawfeeq AL MARZOUKI and Ahmed ALI.

India Start As Favourites

New Asian Sailing Champions India will start as firm favourites. Mahesh RAMCHANDRAN (IND) skippers a crew which lost to Germany in the final of the inaugural ISAF Grade 3 Dubai Match Race in January, but have since won their own ISAF Grade 3 Indian Match Racing Championship as well as the Asian Sailing Championships in Doha, Qatar.

Aiming to complete a third match race success in a row, India also face opposition from another DIMC team led by Cedric LE REST (UAE) and from Christopher GRAHAM's (UAE) crew representing the UAE Marine Sports Federation.

The teams will compete in a daily round robin series of match races aboard four V1/Lutra-30 Sport Boats, with the final taking place on Friday.

BRITTON Set For Women's Grand Final

Meanwhile the Dubai women's team skippered by Bekky BRITTON is guaranteed a berth at the ISAF Grade 1 Grand Final as the only all women crew entered.

BRITTON and her crew of Miriam WALSH, Sharon ALLISON, Laura PALAU, Ruth CHRISTENSEN and Naomi THOMPSON will contest the round robin series of match races getting underway this morning knowing they are already through to the Grand Final at the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Ireland in September.

Qualification for the Grand Final came as a big surprise for BRITTON and her all women crew who are following a big learning curve this week. 'We've been practising for the past five days and our aim is to improve drastically and learn as much as we can about match racing,' she said. 'We're all sailors but none of us have competed in a match racing event before.'

First Match In A Global Challenge

The Dubai qualifying round 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 as teams from around the world battle for a place in the Grand Final.

Like the Indians, the UAE crews will be using the event as part of their build up to the Asian Games in Doha in December. 'All 20 of members of the squad gave a good account of themselves in the build-up and the ten selected have been those who stood out over the weekend,' said Sid BENSALAH, sailing director at the Dubai International Marine Club. 'The Indians have obviously developed a very good understanding and are the clear favourites, but they are not unbeatable and we're looking forward to some very interesting match racing.'

ISAF Nations Cup Regional Final - Asia Entrants

Open
( - ISAF World Match Race Ranking)

  • Mahesh RAMCHANDRAN (IND) - 73
  • Onursal SOYER (TUR) - 160
  • Ahmed SHAHEEN (UAE) - 845
  • Cedric LE REST (UAE) - 1055
  • Yousuf KHALID MOHAMMAD (UAE) - Not Ranked
  • Christopher GRAHAM (UAE) - Not Ranked

Women
( - ISAF World Match Race Ranking)

  • Bekky BRITTON (UAE) - Not Ranked
For a complete list of all the news from the ISAF Nations Cup 2006 CLICK HERE.
Tony LEWIS. Image, India (left) in action in Dubai last time out - they start as favourites this week:© Tony LEWIS
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