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Adrian Lee is Afloat's Sailor of the Month for November

4th December 2013
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Adrian Lee's Cookson 50 reaching at 16 knots in the Dubai to Muscat. Photo: Tim Wright
Adrian Lee is Afloat's Sailor of the Month for November

#rorc – For many decades, the Straits of Hormuz were one of those potential flashpoints which could have ignited World War III. In an oil-rich region of extreme political and religious turbulence, this narrow channel connecting the The Gulf with the oceans of the world has been just about the last place you would have thought of routing an offshore race.

Yet there are few things more strongly symbolic of peace than a pleasure boat sailing about her business, even if the business is the cut-throat matter of winning an offshore race. In fact, pleasure boating in all its forms is the essence of peaceful pursuits, something well-recognised by those who promoted the building of the Shannon-Erne Waterways right through the middle of a border area which was suffering grievously throughout Ireland's "Troubles" from 1969 to 1998.

And in offshore racing, these days we think it perfectly normal that Harry Donegan of Cork with his cutter Gull should have been one of the seven entrants in the inaugural Fastnet Race in 1925. Yet that first Fastnet Race was not only staged just three years after the Irish Free State had been established, but its course took the contenders right into the territorial waters of the Rebel County's most rebellious region of West Cork. The presence of the Gull in the race was a powerful gesture of peace and reconciliation.

The 360 mile race from Dubai to Muscat in Oman may take place between two states which are receptive to western concepts, but with Iran looming close to the north and Saudi Arabia a huge presence to the south, it's a bizarre enough setting for something so western as modern offshore racing. Yet is has been staged annually for 22 years now, but it is only relatively recently, as the first green shoots of a greater peacefulness spread over the Gulf area, that it has been allowed to achieve the kind of publicity it deserves.

So from being a fleet of local Dubai-based boats which just nipped round the corner to Muscat, it has begun to attract high profile entries to race a course which re-traces part of the ancient spice voyaging routes. But though the local Dubai-based inshore racing sports dhows can reach remarkable speeds, for the demands of a 360 miles offshore in the first weekend of November 2013 it was a tried and tested classic modern offshore racer, the canting-keel Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners, which did the business to take a new course record of 2 days 53 minutes and 40 seconds and the overall win, adding them to her overall victory (as Chieftain) in the 2007 Fastnet Race, and her overall win in the inaugural 2009 RORC Caribbean 600 race.

Skipper Adrian Lee hit a happy moment, as his club, the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire, was at precisely the same time celebrating its 175th anniversary by honouring the 597 members who had won major sailing prizes down the years. The Lee victory brought the total up to 598 before the weekend was over. Lee Overlay Partner's crew for the Dubai-Muscat Race 2013 were James Hemingway, Ilya Lee Paveliev, Scott Wilson, Emmet Kerin, James Gunn, Tim Corney, Neil Harrison, Ruairi Herraghty, Robert Witte and Daniel McKeown, and their skipper Adrian Lee is very deservedly the Afloat.ie "sailor of the Month" for November.

Published in Sailor of the Month
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