RACE NEWS – The first leg of the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour was completed in glorious sunshine today with crews fighting out a sprint finish due to light winds off the coast of Qatar and throughout the 100 mile first leg from Bahrain.
Leading home the world-class crews by a distance of 250m to establish an early lead in the region’s only long distance offshore sailing race, covering 760 miles in 15 day race between Bahrain and Muscat, was Team BAE Systems (Oman), skippered by world-renowned Cedric Pouligny.
Completing the top three positions, with only a boat length between them was EFG Bank (Monaco) skippered by Sidney Gavignet in second and the youthful Team Messe Frankfurt led by Marcel Herrera in third.
Inspired by organisers Oman Sail to encourage one of the region’s fastest growing sports and reignite the rich maritime heritage of the Gulf, the third edition of the showcase sailing event got off to a slow start as Issa Al Ismaili, Director of Events at the race’s organiser Oman Sail said:
“Firstly congratulations to Team BAE Systems and skipper Cedric Pouligny who made the best of the conditions and his experience of having completed Sailing Arabia – The Tour in the two previous editions. Today we’re just pleased to get in some racing at all. Obviously to have no wind is not ideal but at least the teams will be fresh for tomorrow’s in-port sailing off Qatar. It was a sprint finish in the end but everyone knows this is only the start and there is a lot of competitive sailing and miles to race over the next 14 days.”
Speaking having secured finished first after the opening leg in 4 hours 49 minutes and 12 seconds, Cedric Pouligny, BAE Systems skipper said;
“After waiting all night with so little wind it was tight out there and felt more like an inshore race by the time we got started. There was a little positioning but it was mostly straight-line sailing. We won after getting a good start and it’s always a pleasure to win the opening leg. Tomorrow is a new day and the in-port sailing so close to the harbour on Qatar’s National Sport Day should be fun.”
In contrast to last year’s EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour, when competitors at the start were buffeted by 30 knot winds, this year’s race departed Bahrain during a beautiful afternoon yesterday, but unfortunately without a breath of wind, severely restricting racing.
Keith Gapp, EFG Bank, Head of Strategy and Marketing, EFG International said on the 2nd placed position of EFG Bank (Monaco);
“Sidney Gavignet and EFG Bank (Monaco) are well placed to take control of this year’s EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour. There is everything to play for over the next legs and we are supporting Sidney and his Omani team all the way to a podium finish.”
Race Director of EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour, Gilles Chiorri, explained sport sailing is 100% reliant on the co-operation of nature. “It is sailing and in this sport you have to deal with weather conditions – whether it is good or bad. It seems that the weather forecast for the coming days will be slightly better, so we’re looking forward to the next two weeks of race action”
Over the course of yesterday afternoon and through the night the nine crews, taking part in the region’s only long distance offshore sailing race, were forced to use their engines to motor down the course and spent most of the early hours of the morning waiting for the wind to materialise by the ‘Fairway’ mark, just off the northeast coast of Qatar.
At just after 0800 this morning, the breeze began to fill in and the Oman Sail Race Committee was able to set a 46 miles course towards Doha, south down Qatar’s east coast.
In the early part of the shortened race pre-race favourites, Bertrand Pacé skipper of Team AISM, the 2011 winner and former America’s Cup helmsman, got off to the best start but as the boats continued down the race course it was Pacé’s French compatriot Cedric Pouligny on Team BAE Systems who had just pulled into the lead and maintained that lead until the finish in Qatar, ahead of French compatriot Sidney Gavignet’s team on EFG Bank (Monaco).
British record breaking singlehanded round the world sailor Dee Caffari, who is skippering the all-female crew of Al-Thuraya Bank Muscat, comprising of 50% Omani sailors said:
“It’s painful, but we’ve had a good sail at the end. The race director did well getting a race in. It was sheet glass the whole way and we waited four hours hanging around for daylight to see if we would race in a sea of glass. But eventually the wind came.”
Despite the slow start for teams arriving into Qatar, racing is perfectly scheduled tomorrow to let all communities in Qatar and sailing enthusiasts celebrate the sporting public holiday on Tuesday 12th February. Free to attend and open to all, the family day let’s all spectators watch the magnificent fleet of Farr30 boats in action as they battle it out in Qatari waters to secure top points in the in-port racing series following the first leg of sailing between Bahrain and Qatar.
Initiated and supported by the Qatar Olympic Committee, National Sports Day includes a host of sporting events from gymnastics and athletics to football and karate, and is designed to inspire a new generation of active sports fans, unite the community and discover local talent.
This season promises to be the best yet, with some of the world’s best sailors competing in the ideal sailing conditions of the Gulf. EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2013 represents the culmination of three years’ development in offshore racing in the region, and the roster of competitors reflects the adoption and recognition of this unique event by the international sailing community.
Competing aboard identical Farr 30 yachts, the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour has attracted nine crews representing five different nations, led locally by Oman’s Team Renaissance, Royal Navy of Oman, Team BAE Systems and the all – female Team Al-Thuraya Bank Muscat. Two teams will compete on behalf of the UAE, Team Abu Dhabi and Team AISM representing the neighbouring Emirate of Dubai. International crews include EFG Bank (Monaco), Team Delft Challenge – TU Delft (Holland) and the Team Messe Frankfurt (EU).
Qatar is the first of seven that will see the fleet visit stopover ports first in Qatar, then along the UAE coastline to Abu Dhabi, Dubai (new to the course this year) and Ras Al Khaimah before passing through the Strait of Hormuz and on to Oman, visiting Dibba, Mussanah and the finish in Muscat.
Taking in four countries and eight ports of call, EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour is a showcase of everything that the Gulf has to offer in terms of state-of-the-art facilities and idyllic sailing conditions
Leaving Manama on February 10th, EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour calls at Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, Dibba and Mussanah and ends February 25th in Muscat. The racing will include in-port racing at selected locations.