The final offshore leg of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2017 began today – and with double points up for grabs the quest for a podium place is set to reach boiling point. The 205 nautical mile Leg 5 from Doha, Qatar, to Dubai, UAE, is the longest of the five legs that make up the 763nm race around the Arabian Gulf, and will present the eight-strong fleet with its biggest challenge since starting in Muscat on February 14.
It will also prove crucial to the final podium positions – just four points separate tour leaders and reigning champions EFG Bank Monaco (MON) from challengers Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA) in second. The battle for third place is also set to heat up with Team Renaissance (OMA) leading Team Zain (KUW) by just 4.25 points.
In recognition of the leg’s length it is worth double the points, meaning a good result could see a team rocket up the leaderboard. Similarly, any mistake could prove costly. Omani sailor Sultan Al Balushi said his Team Al Mouj Muscat crew were determined to do all they could to overhaul EFG Bank Monaco and go one better than their overall runners-up finish in 2016.
“We are really proud about where we are but it’s not over yet,” Al Balushi said prior to leaving the dock at The Pearl-Qatar. “People keep telling us that second is a good place to be but we believe we can be first, and that’s what we’re going to fight for.”
Another planning on bettering their 2016 result is Omani skipper Fahad Al Hasni, whose Team Renaissance missed out on third by just one point.
“With Team Zain so close to us we need to make sure they stay behind us,” said Al Hasni, who has competed in all seven editions of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour. “We will aim to cover them for sure but we don’t want to get into a match race with them that might let the other boats pass us. We have to be really focussed 100 per cent.”
Al Hasni’s men might be ahead but Team Zain skipper Cedric Pouligny said his crew has the upper hand going into the final leg. “We will try to sail the best as we can and hope Team Renaissance have a bad leg so we can catch up some points,” Pouligny said. “We feel pretty relaxed because we have nothing to lose and everything to gain, and that’s good for us.”
The forecast for Leg 5 is for downwind conditions that could see the fleet arrive in Dubai in around 35 hours.
Former Volvo Ocean Race navigator Libby Greenhalgh, part of all-woman crew DB Schenker, said the first part of the leg could be crucial as her team attempt to lift themselves off the bottom of the table.
“We struggled a bit at the beginning with our boat speed but we’ve had a breakthrough with that recently so we’re going into the last leg much more confident,” she said. “The start of the leg will be light and downwind for the about 80 miles so there’s plenty of opportunities for a good position. Closer to the finish it becomes more about boat speed with fewer opportunities to overtake.”
Once the fleet reaches Dubai a series of high-intensity in-port races on March 1 will decide which team is crowned champions of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2017.
Results of Doha In-Port Race Series:
- EFG Bank Monaco (MON/Thierry Douillard) – 0.75 points
- Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA/Christian Ponthieu) – 0.75 points
- Team Averda (GBR/Andrew Baker) – 1.75 points
- Team Zain (KUW/Cedric Pouligny) – 2 points
- Bienne Voile (SUI/Lorenz Mueller) – 3 points
- Team Renaissance (OMA/Fahad Al Hasni) – 3 points
- Adelasia di Torres (ITA/Renato Azara) – 3 points
- DB Schenker (GER/Annemeike Bes) – 3.25 points
- EFG Bank Monaco (MON/Thierry Douillard) – 8 points
- Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA/Christian Ponthieu) – 12 points
- Team Renaissance (OMA/Fahad Al Hasni) – 19.75 points
- Team Zain (KUW/Cedric Pouligny) – 24 points
- Team Averda (GBR/Andrew Baker) – 36.75 points
- Adelasia di Torres (ITA/Renato Azara) – 36.75 points
- Bienne Voile (SUI/Lorenz Mueller) – 37.50 points
- DB Schenker (GER/Annemeike Bes) – 42.25 points
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