: An epic battle to decide the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour podium began today as its nine international crews set sail on the last of the five legs that make up the 730 nautical mile adventure around the Arabian Gulf. The overall results of this year’s edition of the tour, the Gulf region’s premier sailing event, will be decided by a short 100 nautical mile sprint from Sohar to Muscat. And it is set to be a thrilling finale with none of the top three spots decided yet.
While overall leaders EFG Bank Monaco have a comfortable eight point lead going into leg 5, it is mathematically possible for second-placed Team Averda to snatch the win. To do so Team Averda, led by Marcel Herrera, would have to win the leg and defending champions EFG Bank Monaco, skippered by Frenchman Sidney Gavignet, would have to come last – an unlikely but not impossible scenario. However Averda also have their work cut out to defend their second position from late challengers Al Mouj, Muscat and Renaissance Services, both from Oman.
Al Mouj, skippered by Nico Lunven, start the leg less than a point behind Averda meaning they only need to beat them by one place to overtake them in the rankings. Fahad Al Hasni’s Renaissance crew sit five points further back in fourth overall but the podium is within reach if they perform well.
The fleet set sail from Sohar this morning facing fickle winds that could disappear altogether come this evening. With such a tricky race ahead of them each of the crews are only too aware of what’s at stake in the conclusion to the sixth edition of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour. “It is going to be a very difficult last leg with very light winds but most importantly it will be a big fight with Averda,” said Lunven. “They are second and we are third but we only need to come one place ahead of them to jump them”.
“But we also have to be very careful about Renaissance because they’re not far behind us either. If we focus too much on Averda and not enough on Renaissance we could end up in fourth overall. It will be a tricky leg for sure.”
Rob Gullan, helmsman of Team Averda and skipper Herrera’s right hand man, said: “This is the leg where it all counts. “The fight for second is on and we want it really badly. It is going to be stressful on the water because of the light winds – one small mistake could be critical. Ultimately we have to go out there and just sail the best race we can.”
Team Renaissance crewman Sami Al Shukaili said his team also had eyes on a podium finish. “Our goal has always been to finish on the podium and we are going to fight for it in the last leg”.
The start of leg 5 followed a rest day in Muscat watching the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Oman and a cultural evening at the International Maritime College Oman. The teams were treated to displays of traditional Omani culture before being invited onto the stage to receive gifts from Dr Hilal Al Hadhrami, Dean of the college. The fleet are expected to arrive in Muscat early morning tomorrow. Following the arrival a lavish prize giving ceremony will take place to mark the incredible achievements of the sailors and to celebrate EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour.