Russell Coutts takes narrow advantage on the opening leg of the Dubai Match Race Challenge today

Three-times America’s Cup winning skipper Russell Coutts grabbed a narrow advantage on the opening leg of the Dubai Match Race Challenge this afternoon.

Coutts edged 2-1 ahead after three 20-minute rounds of spectacular, close combat match racing as the two-day event got under way off Dubai International Marine Club this afternoon.

The event’s opening match race was the first time that the Russell Coutts 44 racing boat had been seen in competitive action anywhere in the world.

And as a fascinating battle of wits got under way, the early initiative was grasped by Gram- Hansen and his crew which is built around the Italian-based 2007 America’s Cup challenger, Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team.

Holding a six seconds advantage at the mid-way point of the first match, the Dane had to survive a strong fightback from Coutts before going on to record a narrow opening victory.

With the format for the event being three back-to-back sessions of racing on each of the two days, there was no let-up in the action. Coutts hit back immediately to level the series, winning a dramatic second match at the death when Gram-Hansen, who had had to deal with a twisted spinnaker, was forced to complete a compulsory 360-degree penalty turn.
More spinnaker trouble for the Dane in the final match of the day saw Coutts cruise home with 25 seconds to spare. “It’s been an exciting day for everyone involved, and the stage is set for a great finish on the second leg,” said Martin Bender, Managing Director of Dubai-based V1 Advanced Composite Technologies, who have built the high performance composite-built RC 44 along with Pauger Carbon from Budapest.

Skippering a crew featuring Swiss Julien di Biase, Croatian Stipe Vitaljic, Italian Massimo Sirena and Danes Chresten Plinius and Peter Poulsen, Coutts went into action in Dubai aiming to add to his impressive haul of major career successes.