by Rami Ayoob
In the 2012 Kingdom Match Race, Russia 'A' yesterday took the win in an event which came down to an exciting finish at the Bahrain Sailing Club near Al Jazayer Beach in Zallaq. Facing former champions Estonia in the final, the Russians pulled off one of their best performances in the championship this year to capture a well-earned 3-2 win in a best-of-five title decider.
Russia ’A’ and Estonia teams sail their J24 boats in the final - 2012 Kingdom Match Race
Competing in J24 boats, Russia 'B' were skippered by the world's 26th Sergey Musikhin, who faced a tough challenge from the Estonian crew and their skipper Mati Sepp, who has a better world ranking of 24.
Russia 'A' made it to the final beating hosts Bahrain 'A', while Estonia edged last year's champions Russia 'B' to set up a mouth-watering final.
Earlier in the day, Russia 'B' and their veteran skipper Andrea Arbozov secured the last podium spot with a deserving win over the Ebrahim Abdulla-skippered Bahrainis in the third-place race.
Bahrain 'B' team, skippered by Abdulla Janahi, came in fifth place, followed by sixth Kuba Pawluc-led Poland sixth.
The championship, organised for the 10th consecutive year, got underway with 12 teams from eight countries taking part.
Other teams in the fray were Oman (2) who introduced and all-women's crew, as well as the Tunisia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait.
Yesterday's final day of racing was followed by the prize-distribution ceremony at the club premises.
It was attended by organising committee chairman and Bahrain Maritime Sports Association (BMSA) president Shaikh Khalifa bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, who presented trophies to all three teams.
Shaikh Khalifa thanked all the teams for their co-operation with the organisers throughout the championship, and congratulated Russia 'A' while wished other teams best of luck in future events.
He also expressed pride for having this event held in Bahrain for the 10th consecutive year, and for the first time as a Grade Two event, which underlined the excellent organization of the championship and the development of match racing in Bahrain.
Shaikh Khalifa noted that the association has prepared some of the Middle East's best and highly-advanced J24 boats especially for this event.
The BMSA chief extended his gratitude to Bahrain Jewelry Centre, agents of Omega watches, who continued its key partnership role with the association by sponsoring the championship again this year.
Despite coming third this year, Russia 'B' skipper Arbozov said he was satisfied with his team's overall finish, and is looking forward to come back again next year.
'The competition was so fierce and difficult for any team, and we could have won our race against Estonia in the semi-finals,' said the veteran skipper after the awarding ceremony.
'Sergey's crew was truly the best n the championship this year, they had performed well in most of their previous races and have been steadily improving their overall world ranking recently'.
'Mati is one of the strongest match racing sailors in the world. He is ranked 24th which is better than Sergey, it was really an exciting final and fitting finale as it pitted the best two teams in the championship,' said Arbozov.
The top three teams on the podium with officials at the closing ceremony - 2012 Kingdom Match Race