The nine international crews competing for the 2016 EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour crown today embarked on their biggest challenge so far – a 160 nautical mile sprint from Abu Dhabi to Doha. The fleet of 30ft yachts were greeted with a perfect 10-knot breeze and clear skies for the start of the second offshore chapter of the 730nm adventure around the Arabian Gulf. The dust was still settling on yesterday’s Abu Dhabi In-Port Race series, which saw Omani crew Al Mouj, Muscat emerge victorious after four intense races off the UAE capital’s iconic Corniche, as the teams departed Emirates Palace Marina this morning after just 12 hours rest.
At almost three times the length of the 61nm opening leg from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, leg 2 presents the teams with their toughest test to date and will see them spend their first night at sea of the tour. As well as worrying about their rivals on the race course each team will also have to contend with numerous obstacles including oil fields, tug boats, exclusion zones and islands.
Nico Lunven said his Al Mouj, Muscat crew would have to quickly adapt from inshore to offshore modes if they want to replicate yesterday’s success. “We have a big leg in front of us,” he said. “The good news is that there is good wind forecast for the early part of the leg and after that we will have to see what happens. We will have to be careful because in light winds anything can happen. Before leaving the dock we had a discussion among the team about how to manage our time because this leg is much longer than the first one. We have to change over roles early and not wait until we get tired. On land we’re used to sleeping eight or nine hours but that won’t be possible tonight – we will have to get very short amounts of rest when we can.”
Dee Caffari, the British skipper of Oman Airports-Al Thuraya Women’s Team, said that avoiding exhaustion during the testing leg would be vital. “Leg 2 of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is the first of the long legs. The conditions are forecast to be light which could mean spending two nights at sea. It is not as simple as just sailing straight to Doha – there are also loads of obstructions to avoid along the way like oil fields, islands and buoys.
“There will be a lot to contend with but there also won’t be a huge amount of room to manoeuvre. We had a great day of inshore racing yesterday and we all got an early night so there shouldn’t be any excuses about being tired going into the leg. But we will have to manage our time wisely to make sure the crew doesn’t burn out because it only gets more exhausting in leg 3.”
Leg 2 will give Fahad Al Hasni’s Omani team Renaissance Services a chance to climb up the leaderboard. “This leg is going to be light and tricky so that’s what we’re preparing for,” Al Hasni added.
“It is hard to say how we will do – sometimes it’s down to luck – but we will sail hard and try to do our best with the conditions.”
EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is supported by mobile satellite communications company, Al Thuraya, with equipment supplied by Xtra Link. While internet connection is difficult offshore, sailing crew and race management use communication equipment via satellite whether for emergency or periodically during the race. Leg 2 is expected to take the fleet around 36 hours to complete. Once the crews have arrived they will have a day to rest and recuperate before the Doha In-Port Race series is held on Sunday.
Two-time EFG Sailing Arabia winner Sidney Gavignet saw his EFG Bank Monaco team nudge ahead of Team Averda to the top of the overall leaderboard yesterday following a dominant display in the Abu Dhabi In-Port Race series. “We go into the leg in the lead overall which is better than where we were, but it is early in the race and it doesn’t mean much for now,” said Gavignet, who is vying for his third EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour title. The fleet is very consistent so if you make one little mistake it can be very hard to come back from it.”