RUSSIA 'A' and Estonia will clash today in the final of the 2012 Kingdom Match Race Sailing Event, being held at the Bahrain Sailing Club near Al Jazayer Beach in Zallaq.
Competing in J24 boats, Russia 'B' defeated host nation Bahrain 'A', while Estonia edged defending champions Russia 'A', setting up a mouth-watering title decider.
Today's final will take place at 9am in a best-of-three race format, to be followed by the prize-distribution ceremony and the closing of the championship from 3pm onwards at the club premises.
Skippered by rising sailing hopeful Ebrahim Abdulla, who is seeded in the top 200 sailors in the world ranking, Bahrain 'A' headed into their semi-final race against the Russians hoping to extend their impressive show in the early stages.
But Abdulla's crew, who picked up seven wins from their 10 races, faced a much stronger and experienced team and watched their dreams of winning this competition for the first time go up smoke. Led by the world's 26th ranked sailor Sergey Musikhin, Russia 'B' lived up to many expectations as they stretched their top form performance to book a deserving place in the final.
Later on, Estonia made it past Russia 'A' in one of the competition's most exciting races to set up their final showdown against another Russian team.
Former Bahrain event winner and world's 24th ranked sailor Mati Sepp, who holds the highest ranking in the championship, skippered his Estonian crew to a hard-fought victory against an experienced Russian skipper Andrea Arbozov and his crew.
In the third-place race, Russia 'A' proved too strong for Bahrain 'A' to round off the podium. Despite failing to make it into the top three, the Bahrain team members were all smiles for their improved performance and honourable finish.
Meanwhile, organising committee chairman and Bahrain Maritime Sports Association (BMSA) president Shaikh Khalifa bin Abdulla Al Khalifa expressed pride for the major development that the club had in the past years.
Shaikh Khalifa recalled some great moments in 1990 when he returned from the first World Match Racing event in Greece, where Bahrain made debut thanks to the Late Amir Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, who had donated two J24 boats to the association.
"This was only the start of our dream, and with endless efforts from every member of the association board over the past 20 years, Bahrain can now be proud of what have been accomplished," said Shaikh Khalifa.
"Our fleet here is currently considered the best and largest in the region, as preparing it requires considerable efforts and many years, which have resulted in the end in having 12 J24 boats."
Shaikh Khalifa pointed out that the process of establishing this fleet was well supported by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince, who also gave away two similar boats.
The BMSA president noted that the association has also purchased some used boats from the US, in addition to two more before hosting the World Military Championship organised at the club last year.
Speaking of the idea of hosting the Bahrain Match Racing Event, Shaikh Khalifa said: "This championship has a packed history since it was found 11 years ago, which always coincided with our National Day celebrations and His Majesty King Hamad's accession".
"The hard-working efforts from the past board members of the association had a key role in the development of this tournament, which was recently upgraded to a Grade Two event during the last international federation meeting," he said.
Things became brighter for Bahrain sailing as more attention has been given to the kingdom's rising sailors who were involved in training programms that aimed to help them reach professional standards.
As for the future, Shaikh Khalifa noted that their main focus now is on hosting the Continental Qualifications for the Olympics. "We have been planning this for a while now, and with the completion of our new sports facility that will have administrative offices and bigger apartments for the visiting teams, Bahrain will become 100 per cent capable of organising such events in the near future," said a hopeful Shaikh Khalifa.
Shaikh Khalifa congratulated the Bahrain government on the Bahrain team's achievement and extended his gratitude and appreciation to Bahrain Olympic Committee, especially its president Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, chief executive Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa and general secretary Shaikh Ahmed bin Hamad Al Khalifa.