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INDIA EDGE OUT TURKEY TO BOOK PASSAGE TO ISAF NATIONS CUP GRAND FINAL

INDIA EDGE OUT TURKEY TO BOOK PASSAGE TO ISAF NATIONS CUP GRAND FINAL

07.04.2006: INDIA EDGE OUT TURKEY TO BOOK PASSAGE TO ISAF NATIONS CUP GRAND FINAL

Ramchandran’s crew stay on winning match race courseby clinching regional qualifier in Dubai

Dubai, UAE, 7th April, 2006: Asian champions India booked their passage to the grand final of the ISAF Nations Cup today (Friday) by edging out Turkey to win the regional qualifying round in Dubai.

The two crews finished tied at 2-2 in the regional final after the wind died for a second day in succession at Dubai International Marine Club, forcing race officials to abandon the decisive leg in the best-of-five showdown.

Skippered by Mahesh Ramchandran, the Indians won their place in the Nations Cup grand final at the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Ireland in September as they had topped the three-day round robin series leading up to the knockout stages. "The wind was up and down so it wasn’t easy, and the other boat was a little faster in light winds," said Ramchandran. "But as long as there was enough sailing breeze we were always confident we could win."

Looking ahead to the grand final in Ireland, he said: "They’re using J24s there and we sail those in Bombay regularly, although the level of competition will be higher so we’ll have to step things up a bit."

Currently 73rd in the ISAF world rankings, Ramchandran and his crew justified their billing as the pre-event favourites, although they were made to fight all the way by 160th-ranked Orkun Soyer and his Turkish challengers.  On a day when the lightest of winds put the emphasis on patience and guile, Soyer won the opening match to suggest that the Turks could halt the Indians’ winning run after their national title in January and an Asian match racing gold medal in February.

But Ramchandran hit back immediately to level the final and then went 2-1 ahead, despite having to make an urgent adjustment in the third match when his spinnaker’s halyard broke. The Turks came back again to win the fourth match before the wind deserted the decisive leg to bring the final to a halt.

Turkey had survived a big scare before reaching the final. The Jebel Ali Sailing Club team skippered by 23-year-old Christopher Graham had been on the verge of victory in their semi-final clash on Thursday evening when the wind dropped, resulting in the decisive leg being abandoned with the Dubai crew holding a winning position.  When the contest resumed in the morning, the Turks took control after inflicting a crucial penalty on Graham who was unable to recover.

"We were a bit lucky when the wind died on us last night, but these things happen" said Graham, who has lived in Dubai for 20 years. "We had only a day and a half getting to know the boat before the event and the first day was pretty much a learning curve for us, which is why we lost all our races. But the second day was better and we were improving all the time."



India had beaten the host club’s crew skippered by Cedric Le Rest 2-0 in their best-of-three semi-final. Le Rest, the marina manager at DIMC, had two of the event’s youngest competitors in his crew, with 16-year-old Josie Walsh and 15-year-old Max Buerger stepping up to join three members of his Maktoum Sailing Trophy team. "We certainly had more time together than Chris(Graham) had with his crew," said Le Rest. "The crew worked very hard. We had some good races and some bad ones."

Dubai International Marine Club is already looking forward to a new season of top-class match race sailing next year. As opposed to fleet racing, in which fleets of boats compete at the same time, match racing features head-to-head encounters between two teams who fight out a battle of tactics to gain an advantage.

The popularity of match racing in the UAE has been boosted by Emirates Airline’s sponsorship of Team New Zealand, one of the leading challengers for the America’s Cup, the most famous match racing event in the world. DIMC is working with the ISAF, the world governing body of sailing, to establish the emirate as one of the world’s leading match race venues, and the ISAF Nations Cup qualifier was part of this process.

Sid Bensalah, sailing director at DIMC, said: "We’re committed to taking sailing to a new level in the UAE and the Gulf region as a whole, and we’re working closely with ISAF to make this happen. We’re putting a big emphasis on match racing because there is a strong local demand for this kind of racing and it’s a very exciting form of sailing."

Next year’s Dubai Junior Regatta in January will include a match racing event while a UAE match racing championship will be launched and the emirate will also stage at least two world-ranking match race regattas.

The Dubai qualifying round of the ISAF Nations Cup will be followed by other qualifiers in Finland, Portugal, Slovenia, Great Britain, Ecuador, the US Virgin Islands and New Zealand over the next four months.

 

1. Cat and mouse…..India (in the foreground) battle for position with Turkey in the final of the ISAF Nations Cup qualifier at Dubai International Marine Club

2. Skipper Mahesh Ramchandran (2nd from right) and his Indian crew celebrate their victory and a place in the ISAF Nations Cup grand final

 

-Tony Lewis, Total Communications Dubai -

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07.04.2006 / MaP

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