Doha 2006 crosses finish line

James Boyd sends this preliminary report from the Oryx Quest finish in Qatar

Saturday April 9th 2005, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
Brian Thompson and the crew of the maxi-cataramaran Doha 2006, crossed the finish line off the Qatar capital Doha, this morning to take line honours comfortably in the Oryx Quest ahead of the only remaining boat, Tony Bullimore's Daedalus.

During a desperate final 24 hours Doha 2006 was becalmed for five hours off an Iran island that doubles as a military outpost before they were ushered away by a boat and then buzzed by a low flying plane. Finally the white hulled maxi-catamaran materialised out of the late morning (local time) haze under full main and a massive genniker as 20 or so spectator and press boats chased her to the finish, making an impressive 10-15 knots in the light breeze.

Her happy, relieved crew officially cut the line at 08:01:22, after 62 days 21 hours 1 minute and 22 seconds at sea. During this time they had sailed 25,602 nautical miles and considering their tediously slow progress up the Indian Ocean covered an average of 407 miles each day or 16.96 knots.

After delivering the 110ft maxi catamaran back into port and mooring the crew were swamped on the dock by around 150 press and spectators, including an impressive number of Middle Eastern TV crews. If the Oryx Quest hasn't made a huge impression in Europe the event has made an impact in the local region with daily news updates and weekly programmes being shown in either Arabic or English on most of the main TV networks here.

Perched on the side of his boat, skipper Brian Thompson was lucid but looking like he'd been severely beaten up. Two days ago a block hit him squarely on the left side of his face and he is very lucky to still be alive. Had the block hit him higher up his head or there had been more power in the blow or if they had been further away from the finish, then the outcome could have been very different.

"There could be a fracture under there, but we'll have to check it out," said Thompson who later was seen stepping into an ambulance and being taken to hospital for a check-up.

Apart from some of the stickers along the hull having been stripped away, Doha 2006 appears to be in excellent shape having made the non-stop lap of the globe with almost no breakage. "Only half the boats make it around without stopping," said Thompson. "We really didn't break anything, so I'm pretty pleased about that."

Following Cheyenne's dismasting while sailing up the coast of South America, the Doha 2006 crew had been able to back off said Thompson. "We were trying to ensure winning rather than trying to set a best time. We weren't going slowly but whatever we did had to be 100% safe."

The Oryx Quest was the first ocean race ever to have left the Middle East and with this came the challenge of twice having to negotiate the Indian Ocean - unfamiliar waters in professional ocean racing circles. "It was challenging - very variable," said Thompson. "You've got cyclones to the south to test your decision making. We had to go around there and in the Arabian Sea it was very light so had Geronimo and Cheyenne still been in the race they would have caught us. We would have all concertinaed up and it would have been one hell of a race."

Doha 2006 was in fact particularly unlucky with their return passage up the Indian Ocean as Tony Bullimore on board Daedalus has demonstrated. "He has done pretty well hasn't he?" continued Thompson. "He is the same distance behind us now as he was at New Zealand. He's halved the distance. We've been so slow. We've been doing days of 150 miles..."

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