TEAM OMAN – Oman Sail was racing three boats in the North of France last week as part of the national initiative to use the power of sport to contribute to the development of young Omanis: the M34 team competed in the Iroise Cup while the MOD70 raced the Ar Men race finishing second in class and the pioneering all-women team on the J80 Al Thuraya Bank Muscat raced the GP Ecole Navale de Brest, their second ever competition in Europe.
Consistency was the name of the game onboard the M34, Team Oman Sail, skippered by Frenchman Cedric Pouligny during the nine-day event between Douarnenez and Lanveoc that grouped together the Grand Prix Guyader and the Grand Prix Ecole Navale.
Over 15 legs, Team Oman Sail won one, finished on the podium five times and ranked in the top five eleven times. With Groupama and Sodeb’O competing on the circuit, the bar has been significantly raised and the crew-training team onboard the Oman Sail M34 has raised its game to punch well above its weight. The team, which is made up of international offshore professionals and Omani trainee sailors, has shown that it can compete with the very best.
Conditions were tough for the fleet, particularly during the 35nm coastal race from Douarnenez to Camaret-sur-Mer, which saw the Oman Sail crew snatch a second place just minutes from the line.
“The crew progressed consistently throughout the week,” said skipper Cedric Pouligny. “Our whole purpose is to train our Omani team mates and they are coming along well. As a team we have managed to achieve some good results during this event which shows that we are on the right track towards the event of the year, the Tour de France a la Voile.”
Team Oman Sail tactician, Aymeric Chappellier was similarly positive about the progress of the group: “Our Omani team mates are doing a very good job, they work hard, they are very focussed. As a rule we explain each manoeuvre and talk them through each race step by step so that there is constant knowledge transfer. This result is very encouraging,” he said.
One of the Omani crew members, Abdulaziz Al Obaidani, pitman onboard, sailed for the first time in February of this year during EFG Bank Sailing Arabia-The Tour, an event organised by Oman Sail largely based on France’s Tour de France a la Voile that has become Arabia’s no.1 offshore race.
He admitted that the Iroise Cup was tough but super motivating. “It was amazing to be able to do battle against some of France’s greatest sailors during this event, an incredible experience! And even better to discover that we can also be competitive.”
His teammate Mohammed Al Mageini is racing his second season on the M34 and has made good progress in his chosen career. His ability is a source of inspiration for the newcomers onboard. “Compared to Spi Ouest France [the team’s first event of the season] we have really improved as a crew, we are in the game and properly competing with boats like Sodeb’O. We won a leg as well which means anything is possible!”
Normandy Race Week from 2-9 June is the next event for Team Oman Sail on the M34. They will be joined by the pioneering all-women crew from Oman, Team Al Thuraya Bank Muscat who will be racing their J80.
The girls have very humble ambitions, as they are racing their first ever European season, but Oman Sail’s young apprentices were delighted with their progress at the Grand Prix Ecole Navale, their second competitive event in Europe in the J80 class.
Eight races in blustery conditions in Brest, Northern France, saw the girls led by Rajaa Al Owaisi achieve more than one middle fleet position in a strong class of more than 60 boats including a 23rd place, their best result.
There were marked improvements in boat handling skills and their confidence was growing said Al Owaisi. “It was really good. I’m so proud of our team. We were more comfortable with the boat and the weather and got over that fear of going fast and using the spinnaker in winds of 15-20 knots. We are very happy and can’t wait for the next event, Normandy Week in June.
“We were thanked for participating and the organisers said they felt that having a women’s team from Oman made it a special event.”
Rendezvous at Normandy Week from 6-9 June for Team Oman Sail and Team Al Thuraya Bank Muscat, while Oman Sail’s MOD70 Oman Air-Musandam will be limbering up in Valencia, Spain for the start of the Route des Princes.