MAKTOUM TROPHY TITLE RACE HEADS OUT TO SEA FOR NON-STOP TEST
MAKTOUM TROPHY TITLE RACE HEADS OUT TO SEA FOR NON-STOP TEST
Pal Zileeri face their most demanding test after dominating first two rounds
Dubai, UAE, 16th April, 2006: The battle for the Maktoum Sailing Trophy reaches a critical point at the weekend as the penultimate round of the series takes the fleet out to sea for a non-stop 24-hour test that could prove decisive.
After dominating the first two rounds, the Pal Zileri Sailing Team know that another solid performance in round three could allow them to move out of reach in the title race which will reach its conclusion at Dubai International Marine Club on 5-6th May.
At the same time, skipper Kristian Tzanov, the former moto cross rider and powerboat racing star, is well aware that the weekend presents the most demanding examination yet for his crew, who have performed so well to date and now have to finish off the job they started in early February.
After the first two rounds of short course racing close to shore, the third round is an entirely different proposition. And while the 44.7ft Pal Zileri yacht should be in its element over the longer distance, the handicap system on which the series is based, and the possibility of light winds, could combine to give the smaller boats a better chance.
"The bigger boats will be faster, and it would be a surprise if one of them did not win," said Sid Bensalah, regatta chairman and sailing director at Dubai International Marine Club.
"But anything can happen in this kind of race, especially if there’s a light wind, and the handicap system means that, potentially at least, any boat is capable of winning. The crews have to stay alert and hold their concentration through the night, and that’s where costly mistakes can be made."
While good winds are forecast for the weekend, the unpredictable weather of recent weeks makes it difficult to predict the conditions, and a late decision will be taken to fix the length of the course at somewhere between 95 and 115 nautical miles.
After winning the inaugural Maktoum Trophy last year, Horizon FCB, owned by Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nahyan and skippered by Frenchmen Christophe Vanek and Alain Fedensieu, have been unable to match Pal Zileri who started the 2006 series by taking four out of five races in round one to set the early pace.
While Horizon finished second in all five races, it was Switchblade, skippered by David Rostant, who broke Tzanov’s winning sequence in the penultimate event to finish third overall and suggest they could mount a serious challenge.
But there was no stopping Pal Zileri in round two as Tzanov and his crew recorded a clean sweep of five race victories, with Horizon again runners up on four occasions, and Switchblade snatching the other second place.
While the top three have put distance between themselves and the following pack, Goodrich Serdal skippered by Paul Dilworth, Patrick Cahill’s Southern Cross and Victory skippered by Jeroen Leenen face an interesting battle for fourth place.
There is nothing to separate the husband and wife team of Karen and Glwyn Rowlands in Twister and Tisaheel 2 skippered by Robert Weight, although Cedric Le Rest in Virgo Bellica will be looking to challenge them following his good match racing display in the recent ISAF Nations Cup qualifier in Dubai.
Although the Class 2 boats are largely overshadowed by their Class 1 counterparts, this does not appear to bother Gil Smith who defends a 100% race record in Blitzem, having scored ten wins out of ten in the first two rounds ahead of defending champion John Rose in Insatiable.
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