ABU DHABI // The UAE entry in the Sailing Arabia Tour expressed determination yesterday to make the third leg of the round-the-Gulf race their best yet and lead the fleet into their home port of Al Hamra.
Mark Feilberg, the Australian skipper of the craft sponsored by the Royal Yacht Club of Ras Al Khaimah, and his Emirati first mate, Yousuf Lahej, promised to pull out all the stops as they left Abu Dhabi Marina yesterday on what is expected to be a 24-hour plus voyage to RAK.
Feilberg and his crew were lying fourth of the six boats on arrival in Abu Dhabi and the captain said it would require a surprising turn of fortune for him to make up ground on all three teams ahead of him.
"But it would be great if we could win our home leg," he said. "And we will be going all out to secure that victory."
Lahej, a former Olympic sailor and a familiar figure around Dubai Marina where he has sailed in international regattas like the RC44s, agreed.
"We hope to be first to RAK but we know that is asking a lot," he said. "We are a new team sailing against extremely experienced crews. I've never done anything before like I'm doing for the two weeks of this race but I'm learning so much from taking part.
"This is a fantastic concept and is bound to get better each year. Hopefully we'll see a Dubai team next year and a stopover there as well."
Overall leaders at the start of yesterday's racing were the Oman Sail crew of Renaissance who had arrived in Abu Dhabi in second place behind the French entry Team Caledonian, whose captain, Bertrand Pace, expressed "great pride" at being first over the finishing line.
Results after the first leg from Bahrain to Qatar gave Caledonian their aggregate advantage over Saleh Al Jabri's Renaissance and a bigger lead over the third-placed crew Commercial Bank, one of three Omani entries.
Only five of the six yachts set sail for RAK following structural damage to the Bahrain entry GAC Pindar on the opening leg. They are hoping to rejoin the race at RAK or for the fifth leg from Musandam to Musannah.
From Musannah, the boats complete the final leg of the 1,300km race to Muscat where they are due to arrive tomorrow week.
Ahmed Thani al Rumaithi, chairman of Abu Dhabi Yacht Club, welcomed the crews into his home port and waved them off at 4pm yesterday. He described the Tour as a "new and far-reaching chapter for sailing and marine sports in this region".