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MENAFN - Muscat Daily - 23/02/2013

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(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Dubai's Team AISMextended its lead at the top in the third edition of the 2013 EFG Bank Sailing Arabia-The Tour (SATT) as the eight-boat fleet completed the fifth leg from Ras al Khaimah (RAK), UAE to Dibba, Oman on Thursday night.

Skippered by Frenchman Bertrand Pace, the team clinched its fourth successive first-place finish in the five legs to stretch its overall lead to 5.75 points - which may well prove to be decisive - over second-placed Team BAE Systems of Oman. With two more legs to go before the SATT concludes at the Oman Sail headquarters at The Wave, Muscat on Monday, Pace told Muscat Daily on Friday, ''It is good to have a lead of over five points at the end of five legs. But the sixth leg, beginning tomorrow (Saturday) at Six Senses Zighy Bay Marina to Musannah will be crucial.'' ''It is a 145nautical-mile-long leg (the SATT's second-longest leg) and with light winds expected, we need to remain focussed,'' the experienced skipper said.

Pace, an America's Cup veteran, said, ''The race is not finished till we reach Muscat. We will try to continue the good work.'' While Pace refrained from acknowledging that Team AISM had virtually sealed the 2013 title, Cedric P o u l i g n y , skipper of Team BAE Systems (19 points), admitted that it would be nearly impossible to catch up with Pace and his team'. Pouligny said, ''Frankly, we need to work on securing our second place. The next two legs will be to fight for our podium place against Team EFG Bank (Monaco), Team Delft Challenge- TU Delft and Team Messe Frankfurt.

I believe that Team AISM is in a comfortable place at the top.'' Team BAE Systems conceded quite a few points in the fifth leg as it finished fifth, behind Delft Challenge, EFG Bank and the all-women Al Thuraya bank muscat Team after being caught in light winds. The fourth leg between RAK and Dibba saw the fleet cross the busy Strait of Hormuz and though the teams struggled to overcome poor wind conditions, it was the best offshore result for the all-women crew, led by experienced British yachtswoman Dee Caffari. Dee said, ''The fourth-place finish is good, but we were second for most part of the race.

In a way, it is disappointing.'' The No 4 finish in the fifth leg, however, didn't alter Al Thuraya's overall position as it remained in seventh place. EFG Bank's skipper Sidney Gavignet was optimistic of an overall podium finish after improving to third place from fourth. EFG Bank secured a podium finish on all the offshore legs except the fourth one.

Gavignet, who had to dive to disentangle a fishing line from the boat near the finish line, said, ''We did well to be back on the podium and I hope we continue to be among the top three. Team AISMis sitting pretty and it would be difficult, but we will try our best.'' On Friday, the teams went out for an exhibition race at the picturesque Six Senses Zighy Bay Marina, which was followed by a prize distribution ceremony. H E Sayyid Khalifa al Busaidy, the Governor of Musandam Governorate, was the chief guest and gave away the prizes. Speaking to Muscat Daily, H E Busaidy said, ''The SATT provides a lot of exposure to Musandam.

To have some of the best sailors arrive in one of the best resorts of the world is a big boost for tourism in Oman. We plan to hold more events like traditional sports and folklore activities on the sidelines of the SATT next year to get more local people involved.'' Issa al Ismaili, Oman Sail's events director, said, ''The stopover at Six Senses Zighy Bay is part of Oman Sail's strategy of promoting sailing as a sport and Oman as a tourism destination.

The SATT provides a perfect platform to showcase the beautiful Gulf region and also provides an ideal getaway for European sailors at this time o


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