Since Fahad Al Hasni first competed in the inaugural EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour (EFG SATT) back in 2011, he has dreamt of standing at the top of the podium, having won fair and square with a team made up of Omani sailors.
In 2017, at his seventh attempt on the title, he will get his best chance as skipper of Team Renaissance, which is sponsored by the Omani multinational oil and gas company and comprises 90% Omani talent with French navigator Guillaume Berenger having to brush up on his Arabic to offer directions.
Last year, they finished in fourth place just one agonising point behind Team Averda after some polished offshore performances. In both the second leg from Abu Dhabi to Doha and the last one from Sohar to Muscat, they posted second places and gained the confidence to raise expectation levels for 2017.
“We have consistently finished in the top half of the fleet, with a fourth last year … so it would be great to be on the podium this time,” said Al Hasni, who has become Oman’s most accomplished offshore sailor with the Round Ireland world speed record among his many accolades.
“I have always found EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour challenging and with a 90% Omani crew, it will be even more of a test of our skills.”
His Omani crew features some familiar faces including three teammates from Oman Sail’s MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail Sami Al Shukaili, Ali Al Balushi and Yasir Al Rahbi, all of them experienced EFG SATT campaigners.
Abdul Al Mashari, a member of Team Renaissance last year and Akram Al Wahaibi will also be on board and together they make a very good team, says Al Hasni.
“I like pushing the guys to the limit since I know we are good as a team and we can get the most out of each race, whether we are inshore or offshore,” he said.
“We train very hard to be ready to face any challenge but the main reason for doing EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is to improve our overall sailing skills and get to be on the podium.”
When the 2017 route was announced earlier this year, the Omanis welcomed the changes. The fleet of identical Farr 30s will start at Al Mouj in Muscat with an in port race, then head north on the first leg to Sohar, a relatively short sprint of 105 nautical miles.
The second leg (140nm) will take them to Khasab, the capital of the Musandam Peninsula before the fleet heads to Abu Dhabi on a 153nm leg. It will be back to sea for a 160nm dash to Doha in Qatar where more points will be up for grabs in the second round of in port races before the last and longest leg (205nm) to Dubai for a final round of in port racing.
“The 2017 route looks even better than that of 2016 with long offshore legs mixed with high-pressure in port racing. It is the only annual race in the world now that has this exciting mix of competition,” Al Hasni said.
“It is an advantage for us to start from Oman because it means we can train more and of course having local knowledge means we know the places more than other participants.”
The experience gained from six previous Tours will help Team Renaissance negotiate the more challenging parts of the course, Al Hasni added.
“It would be great to win but with our knowledge and experience, we are aiming to go one better than last year and finish on the podium in third place.
“Most of all we intend to enjoy the sailing, represent Oman with pride and have some fun!”