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19 December 2002, 11:25 am
Battle for First Between Sweden and Malta
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Euromed Malta Championships
St Pauls Bay

The expected tussle for top places between Malta and Sweden in this third edition of the Euromed Championship is definitely on.
This was evident today as the top places of the first three races in the Optimist class were won either Maltese or Swedish sailors. Attendance from the United Arab Emirates and Ireland makes this a truly international event although Qatar had to drop out at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances.

The challenge to improve on last year's results has been taken up with gusto by the young local sailors and it seems that Matthew Fleri Soler intends to improve on the creditable third place overall he got last year (although two Swedes got the top two placings).

In fact, Matthew won the first race of the day ahead of Sweden's top racer Rebecka Harding, Lisa Ericson, also from Sweden, and the UAE's Omar Shahein. But the other Maltese sailors were not far behind. In fact, Benjamin Borg and Christoph Podesta were right there in sixth and seventh places. So much so that in Race Two they overtook the two Swedish girls and placed second and third respectively, while in Race 3 it was actually Benjamin Borg who came in first with Matthew a hot second. Third place was this time taken by Malta's young Karl Cremona, with Sweden's Harding in fourth place ahead of the UAE's Jassim Ihab. Karl sailed very consistently today and this is especially creditable for him since he is recuperating from a recent medical operation and his participation in the regatta was doubtful. Thomas Ripard had to withdraw from the races due to an injured hand during yesterday's practice race.

The overall placings at the end of day one in the Optimist class saw Matthew Fleri Soler (MLT) leading the group of 32 participants, with Benjamin Borg (MLT) and Rebecka Harding (SWE) in second and third places respectively. Lisa Ericson (SWE) was fourth, Christoph Podesta (MLT) was fifth and Omar Shahein (UAE) was sixth.

This year, in a bid to increase the interest in the young sailors taking part in the Euromed, and also because some of the racers in the Optimist class cannot participate any more due to reaching the maximum age allowed by the international rules, the organisers, Malta Young Sailors Club, saw fit to include two Laser classes as well. This first outing into these Olympic classes brought 14 entrants, all from Malta, many well-established ones too.

In the Laser Standard class, John Tabone registered generally slightly better times than Adrian Gauci Borda on day one by finishing in first place twice against Adrian's one first placing and two second placings. The overall positions therefore saw him hanging on to the first place with Adrian Gauci Borda and Neil Borg following closely.

In the Laser Radial class, it was Peter Valentino who came out with three first placings in the three races and therefore finished ahead of Paul Debono and Alfred Fenech at the end of the day since they both had a number of good second and third placings in the first three races.

Racing continues until Saturday off the shores of St. Pauls Bay.
John Portelli/ISAF News Editor
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