The battle for this year’s EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour crown stepped up a notch today as the eight international crews set out on the penultimate leg of the Gulf classic. Leg 4 will see the crews compete over 160 nautical miles across the Arabian Gulf from Abu Dhabi in the UAE to Doha, Qatar. The stage is the fourth of five in the 763nm race around the Gulf in what is the region’s premiere offshore regatta.
At the top of the table sit reigning champions EFG Bank Monaco (MON), with two leg wins and a runners-up result to their name. But they cannot afford to rest on their laurels as arch rivals Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA) trail them by just four points, and third placed Team Zain (KUW) by 6.5 points.
“Three legs in and we’re really close to being first so we’re going to fight as hard as we can,” said Omani Team Al Mouj Muscat crewmember Sultan Al Balushi. “We want to beat EFG Bank Monaco really bad… they need to be really careful on this leg because we’re coming for them.”
Although just two legs remain – from Abu Dhabi to Doha then back across the Arabian Gulf to Dubai – they are worth more points than previous legs because of their length. With two more in-port race series also still to come in Doha and Dubai, more than half of the total points for the regatta are still up for grabs.
It is just the incentive that Team Averda (GBR) need to scale the rankings from their current seventh position. The young sailors, led by solo sailor Andrew Baker, have threatened the top spots in previous editions of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour but have struggled to find their rhythm so far this year. A challenging Leg 3 saw them come home in seventh place, their worst result to date, but crewman Liam Gardner, a former Volvo Ocean Race team member, says they plan to reverse their fortunes in Leg 4.
“We were a bit down after Leg 3 but we’ve all sat down and had a chat about the next leg and we’re all really pumped now,” he said. “There are still half the points in the regatta to play for so we’re not out of it by any means. We can still finish on the podium and that’s the goal. Leg 4 will be quite technical – our navigator Robin Elsey is going to have his work cut out, that’s for sure.”
After rising through the rankings to score a fifth place in Leg 3, their best result so far, Bienne Voile (SUI) have boosted their team for the penultimate stages in the form of new crewmembers Jann Schubach and Damian Suri. Schubach, 16, and Suri, 18, raised money through a crowdfunding campaign to join the team, taking time out of their studies in Switzerland to do so.
“Damian and I are joining the team for the next two legs and we can’t wait to get going,” said Schubach, the youngest sailor in the race. “We’re expecting conditions to be light for this leg, and that could be good for us as in Switzerland we always have light winds. After finishing fifth in Leg 3 the morale in the team is amazing, and we will try to keep that level in Leg 4 and fight for the top places.”
Prior to setting sail from Abu Dhabi the crews enjoyed a rest day in the capital on Tuesday that included a tour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the UAE. A special prize-giving ceremony for Legs 2 and 3 was then held at Emirates Palace Marina, hosts of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour in Abu Dhabi, that saw EFG Bank Monaco take to the stage twice in recognition of their offshore domination.
The ceremony was attended by His Excellency Abdullah bin Hamood Al Mawali, Oman’s deputy ambassador to the UAE, Abdullah Al Obaidli, Secretary General of the UAE Sailing and Rowing Federation and David Graham, CEO of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour organisers Oman Sail. Once in Doha the teams will contest the second in-port race series of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour, a vital opportunity to score points before the final offshore leg to Dubai which begins on February 26.
Results of Leg 3:
- EFG Bank Monaco (MON/Thierry Douillard) – 1.5 points
- Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA/Christian Ponthieu) – 3 points
- Team Zain (KUW/Cedric Pouligny) – 4.5 points
- Team Renaissance (OMA/Fahad Al Hasni) – 6 points
- Bienne Voile (SUI/Lorenz Mueller) – 7.5 points
- Adelasia di Torres (ITA/Renato Azara) – 9 points
- Team Averda (GBR/Andrew Baker) – 10.5 points
- DB Schenker (GER/Annemeike Bes) – 12 points
- EFG Bank Monaco (MON/Thierry Douillard) – 5 points
- Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA/Christian Ponthieu) – 9 points
- Team Renaissance (OMA/Fahad Al Hasni) – 11.5 points
- Team Zain (KUW/Cedric Pouligny) – 14.5 points
- Adelasia di Torres (ITA/Renato Azara) – 23 points
- Bienne Voile (SUI/Lorenz Mueller) – 26.5 points
- Team Averda (GBR/Andrew Baker) – 27 points
- DB Schenker (GER/Annemeike Bes) – 27.5 points
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