EFG Sailing Arabia – the Tour defending champions EFG Bank Monaco will cross the start line on February 15th in the Sultanate of Oman with hopes of turning the heavy weight of expectation into another celebration of success. Skipper Sidney Gavignet, one of France’s most respected and well-known offshore sailors, has cleverly combined youth and experience in his new look crew which has been assembled with two key objectives: to win the event for the second consecutive year and give three young Omani sailors an opportunity to race alongside world-class professionals and fast track the development of their talents and careers.
The signing of Damian Foxall, Gavignet’s formidable racing partner, to EFG Bank Monaco provides the new Omani crewmembers, Abdul Rahman Al Mashari, Abdallah Al Shukaili and Nasser Al Marzuqi, with the complete package in offshore sailing know how. Foxall is Ireland’s leading offshore sailor and has completed an astonishing 350,000 nautical miles on the race track, including seven round the world races and 19 trans-Atlantics. Together with Gavignet, fellow crew members, Fahad Al Hasni, Sami Al Shukaili, Yassir Al Rahbi and Jan Dekker, they built a reputation for speed last August when they set a remarkable new world record for sailing round Britain and Ireland in the 2014 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race as members of Oman Sail’s MOD 70 crew on Musandam Oman Sail.
Spanish veteran Alex Pella also makes his debut in EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour, fresh from his Class 40 victory in the recent Route du Rhum, while French navigator Fabien Delahaye returns to guide the EFG Bank Monaco crew around a brand new 660 nm EFG Bank SATT course, which for the first time takes the fleet from Muscat to Bahrain, a reversal of previous routes.
The new course will pose new challenges for all the teams, admits Gavignet. “It is good to change the route to modify the challenge,” he said. “Compared to last year, my crew is a lot more offshore oriented rather than one design biased and that gives us an advantage. The new route, which features more upwind sailing will be more tactical and also harder physically for the teams but that should favour us because of our offshore experience. The harder the route, the better it is for us”.
“As ever it is a pretty intense programme but like the Tour de France a la Voile, that is part of the challenge and perhaps an advantage for us. We have a good team and we are professionals so winning is very important”.
EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour was established in 2011 to offer professional and amateur racing teams a tough but temperate racing option over the winter months. It also gives organisers the opportunity to showcase the Arabia region with stopovers in Ras Al Khaimah, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Manama and gives spectators the chance to see some top level sailing in some of the fastest racing boats in production.
“The Farr 30 is a very good fleet and seeing 11 identical boats out racing offshore is a bit special,” Gavignet added. “It is also very good to have local teams from around Arabia competing and this year, there are more than usual so that will make the event even more popular.”
EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour starts on February 15th and finishes with the fleet’s arrival in Manama in Bahrain on February 28th when the winners will be presented with their trophy.
- Training sessions – 11-14th February, Muscat
- Leg 1 – 15th February, Muscat- Sohar
- Leg 2 – 17th February, Sohar – RAK
- Leg 3 – 19th February, RAK – Dubai
- Leg 4 – 23rd February, Dubai – Abu Dhabi
- Leg 5 – 24th February, Abu Dhabi – Doha
- Leg 6 – 26th February, Doha – Manama