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21 February 2005, 10:38 am
Stage Set For Classic Offshore Battle
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Dubai-Muscat Race
Dubai, UAE

The stage is set for a classic offshore contest that could have a major bearing on the Maktoum Sailing Trophy as the Gulf's leading yachtsmen go back into action next week alongside world-class competitors.
The 365-nautical mile Dubai-Muscat Race, the fourth of seven rounds making up the exciting new IRC handicap series, gets under way from Dubai International Marine Club on 3 March and will finish in the Omani capital four days later.

It presents a stern test of navigation, stamina and all-round sea craft for around 20 racing yachts and cruisers from the UAE and Oman who will benefit from event sponsorship by Thuraya and its US$1 billion regional mobile satellite telecommunications system.

With Thuraya providing complimentary air time, each of the boats will carry a satellite phone supplied by one of the company's main service providers, SAFA CB, and the result will be a vital communications and safety link throughout an event.

'The Dubai-Muscat Race has provided a serious test of offshore racing over the years and it's fitting that it should now becomes a key round of the most exciting new sailing event in the region,' said Saeed HAREB, Managing Director of Dubai International Marine Club.

'We're delighted to have the support of Thuraya and SAFA CB because it's so important in an event of this nature to have a permanent communications channel between the organisers and all competitors.'

The event is being organised by DIMC with the full backing of the Oman Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Directorate General of Tourism, and Marina Bander Al Rowdha, where the race finishes on 7 March.

'We're working very closely with the authorities in Oman and their support can help take the race to a new level,' said regatta chairman Sid BENSALAH, sailing manager at Dubai International Marine Club which is staging the series in conjunction with the UAE IRC Owners Association and the UAE Marine Sports Federation.

Making their first appearance in the Maktoum Sailing Trophy will be two challengers from Oman, Al Bashiq skippered by Saleh Al JABRI and Al Quab skippered by Mike HARRIS.

The pre-event favourite is last year's winner Horizon FCB, owned by Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al NAHYAN, which will be looking to extend its overall lead, again with the help of Americas Cup skipper, Frenchman Alain FÉDENSIEU, an ex-world offshore champion.

Currently leading the French syndicate-owned Grand Sud Challenge in the 32nd Americas Cup, Fédensieu guided Horizon FCB to victory in December's opening round of the series, which enthusiasts can track on the official DIMC website at www.dimc-uae.com

He returns to the Gulf for another guest appearance alongside skipper Christophe VANEK who has kept Sheikh KHALED'S 36.7ft yacht ahead overall, despite wins in the last two rounds by David WORRALL'S Sharazad and Serdal Dubai, owned by Sheikh Rashid Bin Khalifa Al MAKTOUM.

Skippered by Australian Mark FEILBERG, Serdal Dubai came out on top in the third round set of short course races earlier this month with the help of current 11-Metre One Design world champion Michael SPIEF, who is due to return to Dubai later in the series.

Currently lying third overall behind Horizon FCB and Sharazad, Serdal Dubai goes back into action in the Dubai-Muscat Race boosted by the presence of another top Aussie yachtsman, Matthew PEARSE, who like Speif is a former 18ft skiff world title winner.

He is also a member of the crew which won the opening leg of the current 18ft skiff world championship taking place this week in Sydney Harbour.

While the battle for supremacy in Class 1 continues, the Class 2 title race is also proving highly competitive, and John ROSE at the helm of Insatiable could come under more pressure from Time Out skippered by David MADDEN and Ben TRENOUTH'S Binker.

The official scrutineering of all boats to ensure they comply with regulations takes place at DIMC on Tuesday 1 March with official registration and a skippers briefing following the next day.

Tony Lewis (As Amended by ISAF)
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