Eight boats took off in light air from Ras Al Khaimah on Wednesday on the second-longest leg of Sailing Arabia - The Tour for what was expected to be a taxing journey through the Strait of Hormuz to the Omani enclave of Dibba.
The Dubai-based Team AISM, with the Frenchman Bertrand Pace as skipper, held a narrow lead ahead of the 150-nautical-mile Leg 5 that was expected to end in the early hours this morning. Veterans of sailing in the region warned of potential obstacles thrown up by traffic and fishing nets in the coastal waters at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula.
"It is very, very busy," said Qais Al Mamari, the skipper of the Royal Navy of Oman team. "There are a lot of fast boats, transportation to Iran and the fishermen - there are a lot of fishermen there.
"And there is a lot of shipping." The Al Thuraya Bank Muscat team, with a female crew, was delayed arriving in RAK after running foul of fishing nets on the trip north from Dubai, and finished last in Leg 4.
"This time we hope that in our water we get something, in the top three places or fourth," said Intisar Al Tobi. "But I am afraid about the weather.
"I know it is shifty and light."
Her teammate, Raiya Al Habsi, said: "This area is known to be very difficult because of the weather conditions.
"Sometimes it is very cold and wavy, and sometimes it is very hot and there is no wind."
Issa Al Isamili, director for the event organisers, said: "The winning team will have to stay focused and use all of their local knowledge to get through to Dibba ahead of the pack."
The fleet of Farr 30-class boats is led by Pace, the America's Cup veteran, whose