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Medallists on course for Abu Dhabi return

Some of the most dominant figures in international sailing today are heading for Abu Dhabi to battle for honours in the ISAF 2015 World Cup Final next week.

Among the world and Olympic champions who will be in action at the five-day regatta taking place from 28 October to 1 November, none are currently more on top of their sport than Australia's Mat Belcher.

The 2014 World Cup gold medallist and 2012 Olympic gold medallist captured his sixth successive world title in partnership with fellow-Aussie Will Ryan at the recently concluded 470 World Championships.

With Belcher at the helm, the pair will now start as firm favourites in Abu Dhabi to repeat their World Cup success in the UAE capital 12 months ago.

Also back on a gold medal course in Abu Dhabi will be Belgium's Evi Van Acker, the 2014 World Cup final gold medallist and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist who has a particular liking for the venue.

After capturing the womens' laser radial World Cup crown last year, leading from start to finish, she described her appearance in the UAE as, "one of the best sailing weeks I have had in my life.”

Abu Dhabi, growing in status as a top international sailing venue, is staging the climax of the prestigious annual series of Olympic sailing for elite and professional sailors for a second year. More than 150 competitors from 39 countries are taking part.

The battle for World Cup final places has produced plenty of spectacular competition since the first of five qualifying regattas was held in Melbourne, Australia last December. Among the first to seal their trip to Abu Dhabi was world No.1 laser sailor Tom Burton who topped the class to complete a hat-trick of gold medal wins in Melbourne. He will start as favourite in the UAE capital to clinch the World Cup crown, and a share of a $220,000 prize fund.

Croatia's Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic will be looking to recreate the performance from the French qualification regatta held in Hyères in April. Fantela and Marenic were dominant in the Men's 470 and stormed to a relatively easy victory in a world class fleet. They will have their eyes focused on top spot in Abu Dhabi.

Great Britain was next on the World Cup qualifying trail. Among those who came through from Weymouth and Portland were the British pairing of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark who snatched the gold medal in the Women's 470 by beating Aleh and Powrie, reversing the result from the 2012 Olympics.

The final qualifier took place in Qingdao, China last month. Not surprisingly, Chinese competitors were in sparkling form, among them Dongshuang Zhang who moved up to No.8 in the ISAF Laser Radial world rankings.

Four days of intensely competitive World Cup final sailing in Abu Dhabi will unfold for spectators, and a worldwide ISAF television audience of millions, in the waters around Lulu Island off the corniche.

Featuring  eight of the ten classes chosen for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Sailing Competitions in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as well as kitesurfing, the ISAF Sailing World Cup has attracted more than 2,000 leading sailors from over 75 nations over its seven-year history.

The final in Abu Dhabi is organised by ISAF, the International Sailing Federation's, and Abu Dhabi Sailing & Yacht Club (ADSYC), with the support of the UAE Sailing & Rowing Federation (UAE SARF), Abu Dhabi Sports Council and Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi).



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