Defending champion Sidney Gavignet is today on course for a third consecutive EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour title after winning leg 3 of the epic 730 nautical mile race.
The Frenchman skippered his EFG Bank Monaco team to glory in the 280nm stage from Doha in Qatar to Khasab on Oman’s Musandam peninsula, their second offshore victory in three legs.
Gavignet’s crew, who lifted the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour trophy in 2014 and 2015, now sit comfortably at the top of the overall leaderboard with just two more legs to sail.
They have proved almost unbeatable in upwind conditions but with a following wind forecast for tomorrow’s 140nm leg south to Sohar, Gavignet said his team must now outperform their challengers with their spinnakers hoisted if they are to seal overall victory.
Omani crews Al Mouj, Muscat and Renaissance Services came second and third respectively as the battle for an overall podium position heats up.
British title contenders Team Averda had hoped to claw back some points on EFG Bank Monaco during the stage, the longest of the event, but finished a disappointing fifth.
Round the world yachtswoman Dee Caffari’s Oman Airports-Al Thuraya Women’s Team finished the leg in sixth place.
The fleet departed Doha’s The Pearl-Qatar on Monday in a fresh 10-15 knot wind that saw them make good headway towards Khasab over the first 24 hours.
EFG Bank Monaco took an early lead before commencing a clever tactical strategy that saw them cover every move of their closest rivals in order to defend their advantage.
But when the breeze vanished after some 150nm of intense racing, race director Gilles Chiorri took the decision to shorten the leg and take the results from a scoring gate just over halfway along the course.
The move handed the win to EFG Bank Monaco – and now gives them the upper hand going into the last two legs of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour.
Stepping off the dock in Khasab, Gavignet said: “It was another great win for us – it seems we are pretty strong upwind.
“We are quite confident at this point of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour that we can win it.
“But in order to win we now have to prove we can be downwind champions too.”
Renaissance Services skipper Fahad Al Hasni, who has spent five years as Gavignet’s protégé, said his crew were now more determined than ever to beat local rivals Al Mouj, Muscat.
“It feels great to be back in Oman – I really missed my home country and now we’re back it gives the team extra energy,” Al Hasni said.
“We had a really close race with Al Mouj, Muscat and we now have a fight on our hands to beat them in legs four and five.
“We will try our hardest to beat them and hopefully we will succeed.”
There is no let-up for the teams as the fourth and penultimate leg of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour begins in earnest tomorrow morning.
The fleet is expected to arrive in Sohar on Friday after a scenic leg along the Omani coastline before the finale to Muscat begins on Sunday.