Gavignet and his super-tuned crew that includes Spanish sailor Alex Pella, Nicolas Lunven, and Ireland’s Damian Foxall, had a poor start but it did not take the seasoned team long to find their stride and lead the 11-strong fleet round the windward mark
Although they had an impressive one-and-half minutes lead at the mark, they were pushed all the way by the ever-threatening Zain Sailing Team – headed by seasoned Tour competitor, and former team partner of Gavignet, Cédric Pouligny.
Mohammed Al Mujaini, one of the three Omani crew members on board EFG Bank (Monaco), commented: “Our start was really, really bad but we played the shifts well. Zain pushed us all the time but we kept all the focus on speed and we did not think of anything else other than that. In fact, it always makes us work harder when we have pressure from others.”
Seasoned Tour competitor Cédric Pouligny and his Zain Sailing Team includes Gérald Véniard on navigation and a crew formed mainly from employees of Zain – one of the Middle East’s leading mobile telecoms operators. The crew for this leg also included Bader Al-Khafari – Deputy Chairman of Zain, and Head of the MAK Group in Kuwait. Commenting on his first ever yacht race, Al-Khafari said: “It was interesting and challenging and the rough sea made it tough but we made it, enjoyed it and got a top result. It was all down to teamwork. I enjoyed being part of it and actually help sail the boat, including a stint at the helm.”
In third place after a race long struggle through the fleet following an OCS (over the line at the start) was Marcel Herrera and Team averda (Oman). Herrera commented: “Despite our OCS we actually had really good speed throughout the day. We worked hard and constantly gained, which was down to a top effort from the team.”
Fahad Al Hasni and the all-Omani team on Renaissance sailed well once again and held third position for most of the leg but lack of boat speed in the closing stages saw them lose four places. Al Hasni commented: “We don’t know what happened the boat just seemed to stop. We did everything we could but it is a mystery.”
The consistent Delft Challenge team was always in the top half of the fleet and took fourth despite a start line incident that resulted in a bit of damage to the boat. “It is not too bad,” commented Jochem Nonhebel, “We will get it fixed for tomorrow.”
Another team sailing well and posting consistent results is Lorenz Müller’s amateur Bienne Voile team from Switzerland. Today they finished fifth, and the team currently stands in fifth place overall.
Nick Moloney and his mostly Chinese team on GAC powered by Dongfeng Race Team had a better day finishing sixth, just ahead of Renaissance.
In seventh place were Mary Rook and the all-female team on Al Thuraya (Oman). It was a tough day for the girls, some of whom suffered with seasickness in the rough sea. They are now lying eighth overall.
Mathijs Wagemans and the predominantly Omani crew on Team IMCO, and Ahmed Al Ma’mari and Team OMIFCO finished in ninth and tenth place respectively.
The Royal Navy of Oman announced the team’s retirement from the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour after Leg 4 due to extensive boat damage. Commenting on the decision, skipper Ali Al Rahbi said: “It was a tough decision not to continue but we are extremely pleased with what we have achieved so far. Our aim was to use the race as an opportunity to develop team skills and I believe that is exactly what we have carried out.”
Leg 5 of the Tour started today at 0900. This leg from Abu Dhabi to Doha is one of the most challenging not least because it is another long one at 159nm. It will be a real test of stamina with fatigue being the biggest issue. Crews will need to be constantly alert as they negotiate the oil field and shallows along the way. When they arrive in Doha in the early hours on 25 February, however, they will be rewarded with fine hospitality at the Four Seasons Marina.
EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour, now in its fifth year, provides an opportunity for Oman Sail, organisers of the race, to promote the Gulf region as alternative international race destination.
Salma Al Hashmi, Director of Marketing and Events at Oman Sail, said, “Today we have seen exactly why EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is gaining momentum. The variety of challenges, the high level of sailing skill and the capability of talented young sailors from this region on board local boats, is connecting people around the region with a shared cultural maritime heritage. EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2015 is signalling a new era for sailing in the Middle East. The focus is on nurturing talent and giving experiences to the next generation, while also teaching valuable life skills like teamwork, confidence and responsibility to work together and succeed. The race has captured imagination of competitors and the public who can see the possibilities that sailing can offer.”
Schedule (Of remaining Legs):
- Leg 5 – 23rd February, Abu Dhabi – Doha
- Leg 6 – 27th February, Doha – Manama
- Delft Challenge (Netherlands) – Wouter Sonnema
- Bienne Voile (Switzerland) – Lorenz Müller
- EFG Bank (Oman) – Sidney Gavignet
- Team Averda (Oman) – Marcel Herrera
- Al Thuraya (Oman) – Mary Rook
- Zain Sailing Team (Kuwait) – Cédric Pouligny
- GAC powered by Dongfeng Race Team (China) – Nick Moloney
- Oman International Maritime College IMCO (Oman) – Mathijs Wagemans
- OMIFCO (Oman) – Ahmed Al Mamari
- Renaissance Services (Oman) – Fahd Al Hasni
- Royal Navy of Oman (Oman) – Ali Al Rahbi (Retired after Leg 4)