The 2017 edition of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour was given an illustrious opening today, kick-starting two weeks of world class racing around the stunning Gulf region. The eight international crews representing Oman, Kuwait, Switzerland, Germany, France, Great Britain and Italy will race more than 700 miles around the Arabian Gulf in five legs.
His Excellency Sayyid Badr Al Busaidi, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs presided over the opening ceremony, marking the beginning of Arabia’s premiere offshore regatta. He was joined by the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Oman Sail chairwoman Her Excellency Maitha Al Mahrouqi, His Highness Sayyid Tarik bin Shabib Al Said, Renaissance Services board member and patron of the Environment Society of Oman, His Excellency Hans Christian Freiherr von Reibnitz, the German Ambassador to Oman, His Excellency Giorgio Visetti, the Italian Ambassador to Oman and Nasser Al Sheibani, the CEO of Al Mouj Muscat.
Oman Sail CEO David Graham told a packed audience gathered at Oman Sail’s headquarters at Al Mouj Muscat that this year’s EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is shaping up to be the best yet.
“We are delighted to be launching the seventh edition of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour,” he said.
“Today and over the next two weeks, eight teams from around the world will race the Arabian Peninsula in 30ft boats, covering just over 750 nautical miles. The unique, stunning beauty of the Omani coastline will be captured through the lens of the international media, and distributed across the globe, raising awareness of Oman as a tourism and sailing destination. Sport is a wonderful medium to showcase Oman’s unique offerings and this race is part of our effort to boost the contribution of sports tourism in the Sultanate.”
“The Tour is a very tough race with a mix of offshore, coastal and in-port racing, night passages, lack of sleep and a mix of weather. Teams will have to be at their very best from start to finish if they want to have a chance of reaching the podium in Dubai. I take this opportunity to wish the teams all the very best; we look forward following two weeks of close quarter racing.”
All eyes will be on reigning EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour champions EFG Bank Monaco, who start the event as hot favourites for another win. Among those looking to topple the three-time winners will be Omani crews Team Renaissance and Team Al Mouj Muscat as well as Team Zain from Kuwait.
Omani skipper Fahad Al Hasni, whose team missed out on the podium by just one point last year, said the addition of an extra crewman onboard could make the difference this year. He has bolstered his all-Omani crew with a host of talented sailors including fellow Round Ireland record holder Sami Al Shukaily and Oman Sail regular Ali Al Balushi.
“This year we have a slightly different crew and we also have one extra sailor onboard, so hopefully this will help us reach the podium,” said Al Hasni, a protege of long-time EFG Bank Monaco skipper Sidney Gavignet who sits this year’s race out due to injury.
“We know we are very fast in windy conditions, especially when we’re sailing upwind because we have an extra crewmember onboard. This year the race starts in our home country of Oman which gives us a huge boost. We’re so proud to represent our country.”
Team Zain, made up of employees of the telecoms company plus professional skipper Cedric Pouligny, returns to EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour for the third year running. “EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is great fun, it’s challenging, we see some amazing places and get to rub shoulders with a great bunch of people including some of the world’s best sailors,” said Team Zain manager Mike Miller.
“Team Zain is a mix of amateurs and professionals but we aim to be competitive. In 2015 we won one leg and finished third overall, and last year we finished fifth. We want do well, our boat is set up well and going fast, and I think we stand a good chance.”
Prior to leaving Muscat the crews took to Al Seeb 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 following the launch of a new marine conservation initiative by race organisers Oman Sail, Environment Society of Oman (ESO) and integrated waste management company Averda.