Leg 5 was the toughest so far.

Leg 5 was the toughest so far.

EFG Bank (Monaco)’s winning streak continues as Sidney Gavignet and his mixed Omani and European team notch up another leg win from Abu Dhabi to Doha to edge closer to defending their EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour title.

Oman Sail’s vision to develop the region’s sailing talent and reignite the rich maritime heritage has become a reality thanks to EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour. Every leg of this event is designed to encourage sailing across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) by showcasing local role models and motivating youngsters to participate in the sport.

The three Omanis onboard the winning boat EFG Bank (Monaco), Mohammed Al Mujaini, Abdull Rahman Al Mashari, and Abdallah Al Shukaili, are proof of just how Oman Sail’s concept has become a reality.

Defending champion, Gavignet, and his all-star team including the Omanis and world-class sailors Damian Foxall, Alex Pella, and Nicolas Lunven, are unstoppable. In winds that reached 25kts, they increased their lead overnight and, by the time a shortened course was signaled at Gate 3, they had built up nearly two-miles over second placed Team Renaissance.

Gavignet commented: “This was the toughest leg ever in the history of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour. It was breezy into headwinds all the way, and we had up to 1.5m waves, which is quite something for the Farr 30s.”

Commenting on how Team EFG Bank (Monaco) keeps up the momentum on such a long, overnight leg, Gavignet added: “We keep the same speed but we do lots of rotation onboard and no crew is ever on watch for more than two hours, so this helps keep up the speed and avoids struggle when fatigue sets in.”

Fahad Al Hasni and Team Renaissance are noted for their consistent performance during this event. This mostly Omani team, with the exception of British team member Philippe Falle as navigator, sailed a good tactical race and took second. The turning point in the race was when they took a risk.

Al Hasni, commented: “We made a decision to separate from the fleet out to the right 10 miles away from the other boats and at midnight we crossed tacks ahead of Sidney. We were playing the shifts all the time and it really paid off. We then, however, had a problem with the clew outhaul (mainsail fitting) that separated from the boom so we stopped for 10 minutes and EFG Bank got ahead again. We are, however, thrilled to have finished second.”

Gavignet’s closest threat this week is the UK based Team Averda skippered by Marcel Herrera. Herrera, a veteran of the Tour, and runner up to Gavignet in 2014, maintained second position on Leg 5 in the early stages but Renaissance were ahead at the shortened course finish line. “It was very tough and a real test of endurance and stamina. We fought to hold onto our second place but in the early hours, just before the finish, Renaissance managed to just get ahead and keep their boat going a little bit faster, so well done to Fahad and the guys.”

Mary Rook and her all-female team on Al Thuraya (Oman) had a good start but were rolled on the first stretch and ended up well down the fleet. Never a team to miss an opportunity to fight back however, they played the shifts, clawed their way back up the fleet and eventually finished a creditable fourth. Wouter Sonnema and his team on Delft Challenge were always in contention in third position in the early stages of the leg but had to settle for fifth at the finish.

With a crew that consists mainly of enthusiastic novices, formed from employees of Zain – one of the Middle East’s leading mobile telecoms operators – this 30-hour plus leg was always going to be tough as far as stamina goes for Zain Sailing Team (Kuwait). With just Cédric Pouligny as skipper and Gérald Véniard on navigation, both of whom were on watch throughout, they were unable to maintain a top result and instead finished sixth just ahead of Nick Moloney and his mostly Chinese team on GAC powered by Dongfeng Race Team.

Ahmed Al Ma’mari and Team OMIFCO scored their best result on the Tour so far with an eighth, just ahead of Bienne Voile team (Swiss) skippered by Lorenz Müller in ninth. Mathijs Wagemans and the predominantly Omani crew on Team IMCO, representing the International Maritime College Oman scored a DNF (did not finish). The boat took on water overnight and, although the situation was swiftly under control, the committee boat escorted the yacht to Doha. As a result the race was shortened by 50nm.

Now onshore after a testing passage across the Persian Gulf crews are enjoying the luxury at Doha Four Seasons Marina/Hilton and all its facilities including seven restaurants and lounges, a three-storey Spa and Wellness Centre.

Tomorrow (26 February) teams will take part in the final inport race off Doha at 1230 before they set off on the final leg of the Tour (Leg 6) to Bahrain, on Friday 27 February at 0830.


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