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7 January 2005, 09:04 am
The Gulf's Young Talent Take on the World's Best
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Dubai International Junior Regatta

From 21 to 30 January, Optimist sailors from 24 nations will be competing in the 2005 Dubai International Youth Regatta. Taking place under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Emirates, the Dubai Junior Regatta is organised by Dubai International Marine Club in conjunction with the UAE Marine Sports Federation.
With a record line-up of 163 competitors between the ages of nine and 18 and 59 team officials from the 24 competing countries, the event is co-sponsored by Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina, the official hotel, Trek, Rudy Project, Al Boom Marine, Dubai's Victory Team, Duboats and El Mundo.

Allowing young sailing talent from the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait and Qatar to test their skills against the sport's top teenagers worldwide, the Dubai Junior Regatta combines an intense race programme commencing on January 26 with a variety of social events, making it a unique sailing festival.

Racing will be in two classes, with separate courses for the Optimist and Laser 4.7 events. There will be 14 races in all, with three each day from January 26-29 and the final two on January 30 prior to the prize giving ceremony.

Denmark is among 12 countries which will be represented for the first time in the Emirates Airline-sponsored event, the world's largest junior regatta, and team leader Stig BLØCHER is counting on the young Danes under his command to rise to the challenge. 'We're bringing a very young team to Dubai, but we hope to have two top ten finishers in the individual Optimist class and also hope the team finishes in the top five overall,' said Bløcher, who knows exactly what it takes to produce a winner.

He is a former Danish dinghy champion and former winner of the multi-hull (Formula 28) world and European titles. When not coaching his country's young hopefuls, he is managing director at the Winner Optimist factory in Faaborg, the world's most advanced production facility of its kind for the only dinghy officially approved for sailors under the age of 16.

The Winner brand has produced 13 world and 18 European champions, as well as eight consecutive US national champions from 1997, and Bløcher sees the Dubai Junior Regatta as a key stepping stone to success at the highest level for the Danish team. 'This is a very important event because it is our first regatta in 2005,' he said. 'We are only bringing Optimist competitors on our first visit to Dubai and they are all very young, but we hope at least two will go on to the World Championships later this year.'

Jes BONDE (12) and Stig STEINFURTH (11) are the two young Danes expected to make the biggest impact in Dubai in a team that also includes twin brothers Kåre and Kristian KIRKETERP (10) and the one girl making the trip to the UAE, Tine BONDE (10). Bløcher believes the beauty of the event is that it helps youngsters not only to further their sailing education but also broaden their horizons in general terms. 'A very important part of the trip is to teach the kids about the local culture and help them make new friends,' he says.

The Dubai Junior Regatta is part of a major effort to take sailing into a new era in the Gulf region in line with plans to increase the popularity of the sport worldwide. Apart from Denmark, the other newcomers to the event are Australia, Belgium, France, Ireland, Great Britain, Greece, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Pakistan, Ukraine and Zimbabwe. Bulgaria, France, Holland, Italy, Malta, Sweden, and Switzerland complete the line-up.

Tony Lewis (As Amended by ISAF)
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