The Tour reigning champions now add another first place to their Leg 1 and first inport race victory, which strengthen their overall position at the head of the fleet. The Oman Sail-organised EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is now in its fifth year and offers an exciting platform to develop sailing skills and promote the beauty of the region.
This 760nm, six-leg race, which started in Muscat on 15 February offers 14 days of demanding offshore sailing and exciting inport races to test the skills of some of world’s best sailors, including a mix of elite regional and international sailors alongside young sailing talent making their Tour debut.
Commenting after Leg 3, Salma Al Hashmi, Director of Marketing and Events at Oman Sail, organisers of the race, said she was looking forward to more great sailing. “So far we have seen some amazing sailing as each of the eleven teams has adapted to the changing conditions and pushed themselves to the limit. This is the largest field of any Tour so far, showing the growing popularity of the race and for sailing in the region, blending together a field of world famous sailors, future stars and local talent as we continue to rekindle the region’s maritime heritage through high-level competitive sailing. We look forward to Doha where the second inport race will take place and which will require new tactics and an altogether different approach from the offshore legs.”
At 53 nautical miles, from Ras Al Khaimah to Dubai, this was the shortest leg of the Tour and arguably the most straightforward. It did however, produced fresh winds that reached 22kts; the most the 11-strong fleet has seen so far this week. It was also shifty, which resulted in plenty of place changing, particularly in the closing stages.
Gavignet, and his all-star team included Damian Foxall, Ireland’s foremost offshore sailor, Spanish veteran Alex Pella, Nicolas Lunven (replacing Fabien Delahaye for this leg). There are also three new members of the Omani team; Mohammed Al Mujaini, Abdulrahman Al Mashari, and Abdallah Al Shukaili. Together they sailed an impressive race and are, not surprisingly delighted with their result. Commenting Sidney Gavignet said: “It was difficult to remain ahead because Zain and Renaissance were both sailing very well. The competition throughout the fleet is intense, so we really have to work from start to finish. It was shifty, and a good breeze, perfect, in fact so we had lots of fun.”
A fantastic performance resulted in a second place for the Zain Sailing Team (Kuwait) headed by seasoned Tour competitor Cédric Pouligny with Gérald Véniard on navigation. The result is extra impressive given the fact the rest of the crew consists of enthusiastic novices, formed mainly from employees of Zain – one of the Middle East’s leading mobile telecoms operators. Cédric Pouligny commented: “We had a good battle and it was really full on from the start. I think we sailed pretty well in terms of navigation and did our best with the team we have. They are improving really well.”
In third place were Fahad Al Hasni and Team Renaissance. This all-Omani team sailed well in the shifty conditions, and add this result to their already impressive third place in Leg 2. Fahad Al Hasni commented: “I am so happy with our result and so happy with the team. They worked incredibly well given the tactically testing conditions. “Although it was all about taking the right shifts it was also about good manoeuvres and that was something I feel we were good at.”
Team averda skippered by Marcel Herrera finished fourth which was enough for the team to retain second place overall, while Wouter Sonnema and his team on Delft Challenge came finished fifth, which places them third overall. The consistently well-sailed Bienne Voile team (Swiss) skippered by Lorenz Müller was on form once again and rounded the windward mark second to EFG Bank. They finished the leg in sixth place.
Mary Rook and the all-girl team on Al Thuraya (Oman) had a better day and finished seventh, just ahead of Nick Moloney and his mostly Chinese team on GAC powered by Dongfeng Race Team. Ahmed Al Ma’mari and Team OMIFCO finished ninth but were a bit disappointed to have lost two places in the final two miles. Crewman Mohammed Al Ghailani commented: “Despite losing our seventh place we are really happy because we have good boat speed now.”
Ali Al Rahbi and his Oman Royal Navy team were unable to match the speed they had on Leg 2 when they finish second and had to settle for 10th, just ahead of Mathijs Wagemans and the predominantly Omani crew on Team IMCO, representing the International Maritime College Oman.
During their stay at the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, the 11 teams will take part in the second inport race. Racing is in the form of windward/leeward course just off the club, with the backdrop Dubai’s dramatic skyline of high-rise buildings and interesting architecture. This will be followed by a prizegiving ceremony at the club.
Leg 4, from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, the second shortest leg at 60-nm, starts tomorrow (22 February).