Team EFG Bank, made up of Olympian Sofian Bouvet, fellow Frenchman Gaulthier Germain, and rising Omani star Ali al Balushi, has taken a resounding win in the 2020 edition of the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour in Oman.
EFG Bank dominated from the very first stage in Salalah, with the team remaining unchallenged on top of the overall leaderboard as the tour made its way some 1,500KM along the Omani coastline, stopping in Duqm, Masirah Island, Sur and Muscat.
Skipper and Olympian Sofian Bouvet said: “We are very happy as it is our first regatta together. This is a very important event for us as we prepare for the Tour Voile in July. We faced a lot of different conditions and really came together as a team and it’s shown us that we have what it to takes to win. So, it’s a very good start to the year.
EFG Bank teammate Ali al Balushi added: “I am very happy and proud to be sailing with EFG Bank and I’m very happy we could finish in first place, especially as it is an event in my home country.
“It’s been great racing with Sofian and Gaulthier. They are both very experienced sailors and I have learnt a lot from racing with them.”
The battle for silver was not as straight forward as it was for the gold medal, with Groupe Atlantic and DB Schenker locked in a tight tussle for much of the regatta. There were just five points between the two team going into the fifth and final stage in Muscat, a gap that closed even further after the all-female DB Schenker outfit claimed second place in the coastal raid on day 1 in Muscat. Both sides were highly competitive during the five stadium races on day two, but Groupe Atlantic did just enough to remain in second place by just two and a half points.
Despite coming so close to silver, DB Schenker Skipper Audrey Ogereau said: “We are very proud to be in third at the end of the tour. All four of us – myself, Lauranne [Mettraux], Ibtisam [al Salmi], and Marwa [al Kaifi] – spent a month training together here in Oman before the regatta began and the hard work has really paid off.
“We have improved so much since last year and it will really set us up well for the sailing season in France. I’m also very happy that we could get such a good result for DB Schenker. This is the fourth straight year they have supported an all-female team and I am proud to sail for them.”
Muscat is home to two of Oman Sail’s sailing schools and a number of the students came down to Al Mouj Marina to watch the championship deciding day of racing. One of the big drawcards of the day for the kids was the young Omani team on board Oman Airports. After finishing fourth in the coastal raid on day 1, Oman Airports continued to impress on day 2, finishing the tour strongly with three seconds and a third in the five stadium races held off the coast of Oman’s capital city.
This is the first EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour for Oman Airport’s Zakariya Al Wahhabi and the 19-year-old began his sailing career in the Oman Sail school system, just like the youngsters watching today. Zakariya said: “The DIAM24 is a very different to any boat I’ve sailed on before and the past two weeks have been a big learning experience.
“When the youth sailors came to see the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour today, it reminded me of when I was in their place and looking at these multihull boats, dreaming of racing on board. Today my dream came true. It’s been such a rewarding experience, both representing Oman Airports and also getting to inspire and encourage Oman’s future sailors.”
The tenth edition of the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour came to an official close with a presentation at Muscat International Airport, which was voted the Best Airport in the Middle East at the 2019 World Travel Awards Middle East Gala Ceremony.
Oman Sail CEO David Graham said: “Oman Sail was created a decade ago to reignite Oman’s sailing heritage. Therefore, it was fitting that the 2020 EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour was held in tribute to the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, God Rest His Soul, as it was his vision, guidance, and support that enabled Oman Sail to blossom into an iconic global brand.
“We have seen some incredible racing over the past fortnight and I want to thank all the teams for the effort they have put in to make the tenth EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour one to remember.
“My thanks to all the sponsors that made the tour possible, especially our naming sponsor, EFG Bank Monaco, logistics partner DB Schenker, Renaissance and Oman Airports.”