French team Beijaflore continued their winning ways in the 2018 EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour, claiming the spoils in the first of five coastal raids. The young crew began the 35-mile sprint at the top of the overall standings following an impressive debut in yesterday’s stadium racing right off the beach in Salalah where they won two of the three races.
Long coastal raids along Oman’s stunning coastline are part of a refresh for EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour that also includes swapping 30ft yachts for superfast Diam 24 multihulls and introducing short, intense stadium racing close to the shore.
As the eight international teams began the race in a building breeze, Beijaflore managed to slip round the first mark in first place before rocketing off down the coast.
Reigning EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour champions EFG Bank Monaco and British/Omani-flagged Team Averda were among the crews in hot pursuit as the fleet hit speeds of more than 20 knots.
Beijaflore managed to hold onto the lead until the finish line – and their victory puts them firmly at the top of the leaderboard.
Fellow French teams Lorina Golfe du Morbihan and Vivacar.fr are second and third overall respectively as EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour prepares to jump up the coast to Duqm for the next round of action.
“It was another good day for us,” said Julien Villion, Beijaflore’s navigator. “It was absolutely beautiful sailing along the coast of Oman. The conditions were amazing and we got to see some stunning scenery. We didn’t have a great start but we recovered early thanks to the shifty wind on the first leg. To be honest we had a bit of luck, but we took the opportunity and went round the first mark ahead of the fleet. There weren’t many opportunities for the others to pass us and we managed to stay in front all the way to the finish.”
Omani sailing star Ali Al Balushi said his EFG Bank Monaco team found their speed in the Salalah Coastal Raid after a slow start in the stadium racing, finishing the coastal race in second just ahead of Averda.
“This result is a good improvement for us, and it shows we are definitely a fast boat,” he said. “We’re going to fight hard for first place until the end of the regatta.”
Meanwhile Omani dinghy ace Hussein Al Jabri got his first taste of coastal racing as part of the Averda team alongside British Olympian Stevie Morrison and fellow countryman Abdul Rahman Al Mashari.
“It was my first coastal race and it went well,” he said. “With Abdul Rahman and Stevie we make a good team, and I learned a lot. Next time we will be even better.”
Prior to the coastal raid the crews took to Salalah’s Dahariz beach to pick up as much litter as possible.
The beach clean was part of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour’s commitment to safeguard Oman’s seas through a marine conservation initiative launched by race organisers Oman Sail and Averda, specialists in integrated waste management.
The all-new EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour race course will now take the fleet to Duqm where stadium racing and a coastal raid will take place, following three days of action hosted by Hawana Salalah resorts.
Ahmed Salem, destination director for Hawana Salalah, said: “Oman is rapidly becoming the destination of choice synonymous with internationally acclaimed events, and as Dhofar’s largest tourism destination, we at Hawana Salalah are particularly proud to host Oman Sail’s EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour, the first world-class sailing event to take place in Dhofar. The Fanar Hotel and Residences team has taken all necessary measures to ensure we deliver a truly exceptional and wonderful experience for all visitors involved. As our guests enjoy the event, they will also have the opportunity to indulge in our other amenities which include our 170-berth marina, our different hotel facilities as well as the newly opened Hawana Aqua Park.”
Over the course of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour the sailors will visit some of Oman’s coastal gems including Barr Al Hikman, Masirah, Ras Al Hadd, Sur and Bandar Al Khiran.
Racing will conclude in Muttrah, the old town of Oman’s capital city Muscat, on February 17.
Provisional results after the Salalah stadium races and coastal raid:
1. Beijaflore (Valentin Bellet) – 4 pts
2. Lorina Golfe du Morbihan (Solune Robert) – 14 pts
3. Vivacar.fr (Matthieu Souben) – 14 pts
4. Poujoulat (Bernard Stamm) – 16 pts
5. Averda (Stevie Morrison) – 17 pts
6. EFG Bank (Thierry Douillard) – 19 pts
7. DB Schenker (Elodie Mettraux) – 28 pts