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28 February 2005, 02:41 pm
Oman Crews Battle The Odds On Tough Return Course To Muscat
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Given a rousing send-off in Khasab, the Oman Sailing Team are plotting a successful return to the Sultanate in the Dubai-Muscat Race:©

Dubai-Muscat Race 2005
Dubai, UAE

Tides and currents in the Straits of Hormuz could be crucial as the Dubai-Muscat Race sets new tests in the Maktoum Sailing Trophy.
The Omani challengers in next weekend's Dubai-Muscat Race may be outnumbered by as much as ten to one, but the Sultanate retains high hopes of making a big first-time impact on the Maktoum Sailing Trophy.

Since arriving in Dubai at the weekend after a four-day voyage from Oman's Wudam naval base, the two eight-man crews of Al Uqab and Al Bashiq have been plotting a successful return journey, spurred on by the memorable send-off they were given.

The 17 serving Royal Navy Oman sailors and a lone civilian will be in an expected line-up of 20 racing yachts and cruisers when the fourth of seven rounds in the Maktoum Trophy, sponsored by Thuraya and SAFA CB, gets under way from Dubai International Marine Club on Thursday morning.

Whether the two 20-year-old Omani Sailing Team boats can seriously challenge the modern fleet of UAE owned yachts currently led by Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed AL NAHYAN's Horizon FCB remains to be seen, but they will not be short on effort.

'We'll definitely be giving it everything we've got, and spirits are high,' said Welshman Mike HARRIS (GBR), a 26-year British Royal Navy veteran recently installed as Oman's national sailing coach and skipper of Al Uqab. 'The competition is going to be very tough, but we're ready. Our boys have got a lot of ability and most of all they are really willing to learn, and I'm expecting them to give a good account of themselves.'

Harris was as pleasantly surprised by the scenes as the two boats left Khasab in the Mussandam last Tuesday as he has been by the reception he has received since arriving in the Sultanate less than two months ago.

With Harris at the helm of Al Uqab, Saleh bin Said AL JABRI skippers Al Bashiq while Juma Bin Mohammed AL BALUSHI is the lone civilian aboard the two Oman boats. They were donated by ship builders Vosper Thornycroft which has had a long standing relationship with the Royal Navy Oman and also built the world's largest super yacht, the 75.2m Mirabella V.

Oman's two Maktoum Sailing Trophy contenders could spark the same kind of boost for sailing in the Sultanate which the new seven round IRC racing series is already doing in the UAE.

Harris is currently finalising plans to take sailing into the schools in Oman, as the Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) has already done in the UAE as part of a youth sailing programme launched six years ago.

'This can only help to increase the popularity of sailing and take it to a new level in the region, which is what the Maktoum Sailing Trophy is all about,' said Saeed HAREB managing director of DIMC.

After two rounds of short course racing either side of the overnight offshore race between Dubai and Sir Bunair, the Maktoum series now presents competitors with a totally different kind of challenge. The 365-nautical mile, four-day Dubai-Muscat Race is much more of a test of stamina, concentration and navigation, and the imposing tide and currents waiting in the Straits of Hormuz could decide who celebrates victory at Marina Bander Al Rowdha on 7 March.

Tony Lewis (as amended by ISAF), Image: © Event Media
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