The first ever Qatar Optimist Cup commenced today, in warm and hospitable Doha on the north eastern Arabian peninsular.
Qatar hit the headlines when it won the bid to host the football world cup in 2022. Hosting top level sporting events, including the Asian Games in 2006, are all helping to put this Gulf state on the map.
At this time of year, sunshine, temperatures in the 20s, and good wind forecasts attracted some of the top optimist sailors from three continents, to make use of the blue waters of the Gulf and to challenge for the Qatar Optimist Cup.
Three races were scheduled for the first day, so the 50 sailors from 15 countries set out early for the course area, a colourful spectacle of keen young sailors. After waiting for the sea breeze to kick in, racing finally got underway.
The wide mix of abilities makes this event perfect for the local Qatari Optimist sailors. They’re a new team and part of a growing awareness in the Gulf that water and sailing are natural assets on their doorstep for youngsters to take up.
The light conditions called for more tactical racing since the pace of the race was slow, allowing the young sailors time to think about their choices. But the thermal breeze was stable enough to make boat speed a key factor.
In the first of the two races of the day, Rasim Yasar, TUR 1281, had a great upwind leg to then overtake Fares Abdelfettah, ALG 2015, on the first reach and to then keep his lead.
Singaporean Marsha Shahrin, SIN 4475, made great efforts gaining ground on Yasar but the young Turk had a safe enough lead to give him the bullet in the first race of the event.
14 Qatari sailors are taking part in the championship and the Qataris aim to develop a strong and competitive squad towards Optimist Worlds levels. This mixed fleet - with sailors from Algeria, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Spain, Finland, Britain, Germany, India, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey and the UAE – will help the local youngsters up their game.
Racing continued as the wind was getting even lighter and it was just before the sunset that the last boats finish the second race to close up a successful first day.
by Michalis Pateniotis
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10:21 PM Sat 28 Dec 2013GMT
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