Arch rivals EFG Bank Monaco (MON) and Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA) had to settle for an equal share of the spoils in a thrilling fourth and penultimate leg of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour. Title contenders Team Al Mouj Muscat shot out of the blocks as the eight international racing crews set sail from UAE capital city Abu Dhabi bound for Doha, Qatar, on Thursday.
The crew, led by French skipper Christian Ponthieu, still had a slim advantage over reigning champions EFG Bank Monaco when just after nightfall the wind evaporated, prompting race director Guillaume Rottee to suspend racing. With the breeze forecast to fill in again at sunrise Rottee, one of sailing’s most respected officials, decided to split Leg 4 into two parts, each worth equal points. The decision handed an early victory to Team Al Mouj Muscat with EFG Bank Monaco taking the runner’s-up spot ahead of Team Renaissance (OMA).
The second part of the leg started just after sunrise in a building breeze of seven to ten knots, and this time it was EFG Bank Monaco that got the upper hand, leading from the start to the finish in Doha with Team Al Mouj Muscat coming home second.
With four of the five legs that make up the 763nm race around the Arabian Gulf complete, EFG Bank Monaco remains in pole position in the overall standings, leading Team Al Mouj Muscat by a narrow buffer of just four points.
EFG Bank Monaco skipper Thierry Douillard said their full focus would be on staying ahead of Team Al Mouj Muscat as their quest for a fourth consecutive EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour victory reaches a critical stage.
“For sure we are paying more attention to Team Al Mouj Muscat than the other boats, it’s part of the game,” he said. “They are fast and we’re both very close, so it’s going to be pretty tight. We have finished in front of Team Al Mouj Muscat four times from five finishes now and we just need to keep it like that until the end.”
Following a day to rest and recuperate in Doha the teams will resume racing on Saturday with the second of three in-port race series. After four long offshore legs that put the crews’ navigational skills to the test, the in-port racing will be all about sheer speed and boat handling around a short course.
It is a vital opportunity to pick up points ahead of the final offshore leg from Doha to Dubai. “In-port racing is an entirely different way of sailing,” Team Al Mouj Muscat skipper Ponthieu said. “We know which teams are strong offshore but which are good around a short course is pretty unknown. If we get good starts in the in-port races we could do pretty well.”
Adelasia di Torres (ITA), the newest team to the regatta, inched closer to a podium finish with fourth place overall in Leg 4. Enrico Zennaro, the team’s tactician, said they were improving with every day spent on the water.
“We were second for a lot of the first part of the leg, and that’s a great sign for us,” he said. “We still need to improve for the in-port races and the final leg, and hopefully we can keep rising through the rankings.”
The frustration continued for Team Averda (GBR), crossing the line in sixth place in both stages of the leg.
At 205nm the final offshore stage, starting on Sunday, will be the longest of the five legs, and will see the fleet have to pick their way through oil fields and round islands over more than 32 hours at sea.
EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2017 will then reach its climax with an in-port race series in Dubai.
Results of Leg 4 (part one / part two):
- EFG Bank Monaco (MON/Thierry Douillard) – 1.5 points + 0.75 points = 2.25 points
- Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA/Christian Ponthieu) – 0.75 points + 1.5 points = 2.25 points
- Team Renaissance (OMA/Fahad Al Hasni) – 2.25 points + 3 points = 5.25 points
- Adelasia di Torres (ITA/Renato Azara) – 3 points + 3.75 points = 6.75 points
- Team Zain (KUW/Cedric Pouligny) – 5.25 points + 2.25 points = 7.5 points
- Team Averda (GBR/Andrew Baker) – 4.5 points + 4.5 points = 9 points
- Bienne Voile (SUI/Lorenz Mueller) – 3.75 points + 5.25 points = 9 points
- DB Schenker (GER/Annemeike Bes) – 6 points + 6 points = 12 points
- EFG Bank Monaco (MON/Thierry Douillard) – 7.25 points
- Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA/Christian Ponthieu) – 11.25 points
- Team Renaissance (OMA/Fahad Al Hasni) – 16.75 points
- Team Zain (KUW/Cedric Pouligny) – 22 points
- Team Averda (GBR/Andrew Baker) – 30.5 points
- Adelasia di Torres (ITA/Renato Azara) – 33.75 points
- Bienne Voile (SUI/Lorenz Mueller) – 34.50 points
- DB Schenker (GER/Annemeike Bes) – 38.50 points
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