At EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour last year, Team Al Mouj Muscat were the new comers on the block with ambitious plans to spring a surprise, which they duly did when they finished on the podium in the opening round of the epic two-week quest for honours. With backing from the Sultanate of Oman’s ultimate leisure and lifestyle destination in Muscat, they proved to be masters of ‘round the buoys’ racing at the three in port events and clinched an overall second place finish behind winners EFG Bank Monaco.
There is a change of skipper for 2017 with Frenchman Christian Ponthieu stepping into Nico Lunven’s shoes after being part of the successful campaign in 2016. As with last year, the team will comprise two Omani sailors, Sultan Al Balushi and Nawaf Al Ghadani as well as some familiar faces. Gilles Favennec returns as trimmer while Erwan Le Roux takes on the role of navigator with another French sailor Gregory Gendron and Will Harris from Britain ready to turn up the heat at the front of the fleet.
It is the mix of offshore and inshore racing that EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour offers that continues to draw the top-class sailors back to the Gulf race track says Ponthieu, who brings his match racing skills to the Team Al Mouj campaign.
“With the changes to the Tour de France a la Voile, EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour has become one of the only events in the calendar where we can test our offshore skills in the long legs and our match racing skills in the in port races,” he said.
“Gilles, Gregory and I were with Nicolas Lunven on the boat Al Mouj in 2016. We also sailed the Tour de France a la Voile together a few years ago so we know each other well and enjoy sailing together. In 2016 with Nico, we finished in 2nd place. So, to finish in the same place or better in 2017 would be good.”
Achieving a podium place would be a great result for the crew and their sponsor with increasing media exposure around the Gulf translating into a higher profile and brand awareness for Al Mouj Muscat but EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour offers professional and recreational sailors alike some unique attractions.
“The idea of everyone racing in identical boats is appealing because the winner will always be the team who sails the boat best,” Ponthieu added.
“This is a very interesting and varied regatta which rewards the best all round crew. We scored a lot of points in the in-port racing last year and felt we could have done better offshore so we will work hard at improving our performances on the long legs to get more points. Plus the sunny weather in the Gulf also means we can keep up our racing and training through the winter months which is a real bonus. We get to visit places in this race that sailors don’t often see and we really enjoy that aspect of the event.
The 2017 EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is the seventh edition of the race which combines long offshore legs with high action in port racing at venues along the 763nm course.
Oman Sail first launched the race in 2011 and since then, it has grown into the jewel in the crown of Middle East sailing, as the Gulf region’s only offshore event and the world’s only annual race of its type that combines a mix of long offshore legs and intense in port racing.