Omani team Al Mouj, Muscat made a late charge for the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour podium Friday by winning the fourth and penultimate leg of the 730 nautical mile race. The crew, one of three local teams competing in the five-stage tour of the Arabian Gulf, emerged victorious in the 140 nautical mile leg from Khasab on Oman’s Musandam peninsula to Sohar after just under 24 hours at sea.
The triumph is the team’s first of the tour, which has so far seen the nine international crews race from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, Doha, Khasab and now Sohar. It sees them jump fellow Omani team Renaissance Services, led by Fahad Al Hasni, into third place overall with just one short leg from Sohar to Muscat left to sail.
Reigning champions EFG Bank Monaco, skippered by French sailor Sidney Gavignet, and British crew Team Averda, under the leadership of Marcel Herrera, occupy the top two spots after four legs. The fourth leg of the tour saw the crews encounter their first downwind sailing with winds ranging from a few knots to 30 knots and Oman’s stunning coastline providing a scenic backdrop. Dutch student team TU Delft Challenge finished in fourth behind Al Mouj, Muscat, Team Averda and EFG Bank Monaco, just ahead of Renaissance Services and Bienne Voile.
While the leading boats made good time over the course, Dee Caffari’s Oman Airports-Al Thuraya Women’s Team, Kuwaiti crew Team Zain and German crew Team Mangold were all handed maximum points for the leg after missing the cut off time to finish. Everything is to play for in the final leg of the event, a 100nm dash from Sohar to Muscat starting on Sunday.
“This was one of the hardest races I have ever done – no one team led the leg from the beginning to the end and the lead was constantly changing,” said Al Mouj, Muscat crewmember Abdulazziz Al Obidani, who has competed in three previous editions of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour.
“The weather was crazy too. Sometimes we had no wind, sometimes we had 30 knots. The first 12 hours was incredibly tricky but we worked really hard to get offshore away from the coast and the mountains. It worked for us because we got lots of wind and we were able to get to the front of the fleet,” he added.
“We are really proud of what we did on this leg. To come back home to Oman with a win gives us strength to push for the final leg to Muscat. EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is really tough and all the teams are at a very high level so we now have to focus on the fight for leg 5.”
German-born Brit Herrera added: “As far as exciting racing goes it does not get much better than that. “We are very happy with second, especially after coming fifth on the previous leg. We beat EFG Bank Monaco and Al Mouj, Muscat beat us so everything gets much tighter at the top going into the final leg. It now all comes down to what happens on Sunday.”
EFG Bank Monaco go into the finale with an eight-point lead over closest rivals Team Averda, but Herrera’s men could still win the title if they finish the leg in first and Gavignet’s crew come last. However they will also have to defend their second place from Al Mouj, Muscat who now sit just 0.75 points behind them after today’s leg 4 triumph.
On Saturday, the sailors will travel down the coast to Muscat to watch the America’s Cup World Series, the first time the prestigious event has been held in Oman in its 165-year history. Following the racing the teams will attend a festival at the International Maritime College Oman, who entered a crew of student sailors in last year’s EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour.