An opportunity to mix inshore races with offshore legs in EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour (SATT) 2015 was the main attraction for the amateur crew on Swiss team Bienne Voile, another team to be making their debut in the race this year.
Changes to the Tour de France a Voile (TDFV), which has done away offshore legs in favour of shorter coastal races, means that EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour, is now the only top level endurance race of its sort, not just in the Arabian Gulf but in the world and it was these changes that prompted experienced Swiss skipper Lorenz Muller to enter SATT in 2015.
“EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour has become the perfect successor of the TDFV, which has omitted the legs in its new format,” Muller said. “It is a great opportunity to get to know a new sailing area and we were drawn by the prospect of spending some time in warm, sunny conditions during the long European winter. Also, the concept of combining inshore races with legs is just very attractive.”
Bienne Voile was set up 16 years ago in 1999 by a group of enthusiastic amateur sailors based in Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland. It is active in a number of classes with both men and women working together across the competitions. For SATT, he has selected a mixed crew – nine from Switzerland and two from France – of men and women. Some will do the whole SATT while others will participate in one half only. There is a 37 year difference between the oldest crewmember and the youngest and an equally wide margin in their levels of experience with some having completed 15 editions of the Tour de France à la Voile and others with just a few offshore miles under their racing belts.
“Many in the team are familiar with the concept of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour as Bienne Voile/SRS has participated in 15 Tour de France a Voiles and also know the Farr 30 quite well,” said Muller. “But crew work will have to be optimized quickly since we have not had the chance for much practice with the whole crew.”
And neither do they know the waters. The 760 nautical miles route which sees the fleet head off from Muscat to Sohar then head round the Musandam Peninsula to Ras Al Khaimah then on to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha before finishing in Manama, Bahrain is one that is completely unfamiliar which will put Bienne Voile on their guard.
“We are not really sure what to expect as this is the first time we are sailing in this region. Certainly the nights will be longer compared to the ones at the TDFV and quite cold as well. Also, there are rumours about new islands being built in the region. We’ll need to watch closely in case they are not mapped yet.”
But does that lack of familiarity rule them out of contention? Bienne Voile start as underdogs but there is no reason why they shouldn’t cause an upset. “Let’s be realistic, we’ll let the pros win,” said Muller. “However, we will do our best to tackle the pros as much as possible! “
EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour which in 2015 has attracted a record 11 entries starts on Wednesday February 15 following three days of training and is likely to take around 15 days, with stopovers at some of the region’s finest marinas.
Bienne Voile Crew
- Lorenz Mueller
- Robert Hartmann
- Emanuel Müller
- Laurence Filletaz
- Theresa Lagler
- Jacques Thierry Bosshart
- Marc von Weissenfluh
- Anne Knoll
- Laurent Feuz
- Esther Rüthemann
- Florence Devaux
- Dominique Müller-Devaux
- Training sessions – 11-14th February, Muscat
- Leg 1 – 15th February, Muscat – Sohar
- Leg 2 – 17th February, Sohar – RAK
- Leg 3 – 19th February, RAK – Dubai
- Leg 4 – 23rd February, Dubai – Abu Dhabi
- Leg 5 – 24th February, Abu Dhabi – Doha
- Leg 6 – 26th February, Doha – Manama