The 2019 edition of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour (SATT), organised by Oman Sail, has brought together a highly competitive mix of experienced stars of the international racing world, challenging young talent and the best of a remarkable generation of Omani sailors. Running for the ninth year, the Gulf region’s premier offshore yacht race features as the first event of the established World Diam Tour in 2019.
In a repeat of last year’s successful new-look event featuring the high-performance Diam 24 trimaran, the event will take a 10-strong fleet on a course from Oman’s capital Muscat to seven different venues, culminating with a finale in Salalah, in the far south of the country.
Among the high-profile sailors likely to play a leading role as the drama unfolds is defending SATT champion Valentin Bellet, skipper of the Beijaflore entry. Managed by the renowned Pierre Mas, the squad used their impressive early season victory in Oman as a springboard that took them to the runner-up spot in last year’s Tour Voile.
Out to stop a repeat performance will be EFG Bank Monaco, who had to settle for second place last year. The team and event sponsor will be hoping for a return to SATT success with the high-profile combination of skipper Franck Cammas, Oman Sail regular Thierry Douillard and Omani dinghy ace Hussein Al Jabri.
Strong competition though will come from the newly-formed Oman Shipping team. Skipper Stevie Morrison took fourth place in the Tour Voile alongside Douillard, but the British Olympian will give his former teammate a run for his money racing with Quentin Ponroy and the experienced Oman Sail instructor Raad Al Hadi.
In what looks like another formidable combination, match racer and four-time Tour Voile winner Damien Iehl skippers MOOD, a SATT first-time entry, and is reunited with Tour Voile teammates Benjamin Amiot and Aurélien Ducroz, a former world champion freeride skier. To add even more strength in depth, Team Oman Sail skipper Pierre Le Clainche is also in the squad.
Meanwhile Swiss racing legend Bernard Stamm will manage the reliably consistent and competitive Cheminée Poujoulat team, this time led by skipper Robin Follin, hot off the GC32 circuit and a leading light of the Team France Jeune project.
Another famous figure is 1985-86 Whitbread Race winner turned project manager Lionel Pean, who heads a Seaflotech entry skippered by French Olympic 470 sailor and Tour Voile veteran Sofian Bouvet.
Having had an entry in every single SATT event from 2011, the 2018 Renaissance team is an all-Omani affair. Oman Sail stalwart Akram Al Wahaibi skippers a team of Yasser Al Rahbi and Haitham Al Whaibi, both of whom were part of the Diam development team who took an impressive 12th place in last year’s Tour Voile.
Also sporting a strong Omani contingent is the all-women DB Schenker entry. Skipper Audrey Ogereau and fellow French racer Maelenn Lemaitre join Oman Sail stars Ibtisam Al Salmi, Tamathir Al Balushi and Marwa Al Khaifi, all leading members of the organisation’s Women’s Sailing Programme.
One of the youngest sailors in the SATT fleet, Solune Robert’s Golfe du Morbihan team of Riwan Peron, Charles Dommange and Louis Flamment took a highly competitive fifth place in last year’s Tour Voile, having been twice winners of the youth group.
Also out to make an impression are the young CER Geneva team. Rising Swiss stars Nelson Mettraux and Victor Casas – who each skippered a Tour Voile entry last year – will team-up with Lauranne Mettraux, Nelson’s twin sister, as they make their debut in the Oman opener.
EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour gets underway with a practice race in Muscat on February 2nd, followed by 14 intensive days of inshore and coastal racing, interspersed by days relocating to the next venue along Oman’s striking coastline.