TEAM OMAN – Oman Air-Musandam brought the latest phase of their training programme to a close with a fast and furious dash across Quiberon Bay off Brittany in France to claim second place among the MOD70s in the 2013 Ar Men Race.
It took Oman’s elite multihull crew just 14 hours to complete the 320nm course, which was shortened by race organisers due to the rough weather conditions.
Some intense battles were played out among the 130 strong fleet, which included some of the biggest names in French sailing, not least between the three MOD70s: Oman Air-Musandam, Seb Josse’s Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (Gitana) and Virbac Paprec skippered by Jean-Pierre Dick.
Just five minutes separated the winner Gitana from French skipper Sidney Gavignet’s young crew on Oman Air-Musandam after an especially close fought race.
“We finished five minutes behind Gitana which was a good result though we would have much preferred to have finished one minute ahead,” said Gavignet.
“It was a very fast race – we saw our speed reach 39 knots at one stage – so it was a good test and I’m happy with our performance. The team worked well – we showed good fight, good concentration and good preparation. I am very happy.
“We felt by the end that we really understood the boat so much better than we did in this event one year ago, which was our very first race.”
The Oman Air-Musandam crew features a mix of highly experienced internationals in Sidney Gavignet, Neal McDonald, Damian Foxall and Thomas Le Breton who are teaching three talented Omani sailors: Mohsin Al Busaidi, the first Arab to race non-stop around the world, Fahad Al Hasni, one of Oman Sail’s most promising young sailors, and newcomer to the MOD70 from the F18 fleet, Ahmed Al Hassani – all three are gathering pace as offshore professionals.
For Ahmed, this was his first offshore experience and according to his skipper, it was a useful introduction to big boat racing in big sea states.
“He was a bit seasick during the night but for most of the trip he was smiling and happy. It was a good start for him to be on the boat at night in those conditions,” said Gavignet.
“I was a bit nervous before we left because they said the weather conditions were not good so I wasn’t surprised when I was sick. Most new sailors get ill in those conditions,” said Ahmed.
“We were racing for just a few hours and it was good to have the experience and learn so much from it. I can now concentrate on preparing for the Route des Princes. It will be a challenge and one I am looking forward to.”
The crew, physically exhausted by the demands of their Ar Men Race success, will now have a two week break before returning to Lorient for more sailing and preparation. They will then set out on the delivery sail to Valencia where the ultimate month long test, the Route des Princes starts on June 9.
“I think the Ar Men race is a good indicator of what will happen in the Route des Prince,” said Gavignet.
“It will be tight between all the MODs because Virbac will have time to learn a bit more. They were a bit behind in this race. Every two hours we had to change course and change sails and it would have been hard for them to keep up with the pace.
“But we are very excited. We have a good picture of how it should be. If all the boats are well prepared it will be very tight and a really good contest.”