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Three-way fight for overall lead

The race for the top spot in the third edition of the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia-The Tour (SATT) continues to be a three-way contest as Team AISM, Team BAE Systems and Team EFG Bank (Monaco) maintained their odium positions after the third inshore (in-port) races concluded at the Al Hamra Marina and Yacht Club in Ras al Khaimah (RAK), UAE, on Tuesday.

Team AISM, skippered by the experienced Bertrand Pace, strengthened its grip on top after securing a hat-trick of wins on Monday night. AISM won the fourth-leg race from Dubai to RAK and followed it up with third and fourth-place finishes in the two inshore races to hold on to the overall lead with 12.25 points. Skippered by Cedric Pouligny, Oman's Team BAE Systems was breathing down the neck of AISM after winning the first inshore race and then claiming a runnerup place to take the overall second with 14.00 points.

Team BAE Systems is the only team to finish on the podium in all four of the offshore legs. Pouligny and Co had won the first leg and recorded two successive runner-up places before finishing third on Monday. Both AISM and BAE Systems are expected to face a stiff fight from EFG Bank (Monaco), skippered by Sidney Gavignet.

The Frenchman and his crew came back strongly on Tuesday, winning one race and ending up second during the inshore races after having finished fourth in the Dubai to RAK leg. It has secured 17.50 points so far. The only other team likely to challenge the trio is Team Messe Frankfurt. Skippered by 19 year old Marcel Herrera, the varsity team from Plymouth, UK, finished second in the fourth leg, and had a 4-3 finish in the inshore races to finish overall fourth with 24.50 points. Earlier on Monday night, Oman's Team Renaissance, led by Mohsin al Busaidi, was among the only five teams to have finished the fourth leg in the time limit.

The results of the remaining three teams - Royal Navy of Oman, Al Thuraya bank muscat Team and Delft Challenge-TU Delft - were classified under 'time limit expired'. Later, the teams clarified that they were unable to finish in time because they lost valuable time while negotiating fishing nets in the dark. In a related incident, BAE Systems and EFG Bank (Monaco) got caught in the same fishing net and nearly collided. The all-women crew onboard Al Thuraya got completely entangled in a net and a fishing boat had to row over to snap the net and help it continue with the race.

On Tuesday, despite the teams getting less that 12 hours' rest between the fourth-leg finish and the start of the third round of inshore races, the sailors produced closely-contested races at the Al Hamra Marina in the presence of H H Sheikh Mohammed al Qasimi, the Crown Prince of RAK. The second race was the most exciting as seven teams crossed the finish line with a difference of just 60 seconds. The fleet departs for the fifth leg on Wednesday that will bring the sailors to their first stopover in the sultanate - at Dibba.

muscatdaily columnists