First leg win to Courrier Dunkerque
Souben’s crew led the nine-strong Farr 30 fleet from start to finish, rounding the windward top mark in clear air ahead of closest rivals Bertrand Pace on Team Commercial Bank (QATAR), and Cedric Pouligny on Team BAE Systems.
Souben continued to pile on the pressure in fast downwind sailing conditions and eventually crossed the finish line 31min 32sec ahead of Team BAE Systems with Team Commercial Bank finishing a close third.
The yachts started the first leg from Manama, Bahrain with a fresh 20 knot northerly promising an exciting downhill run all the way to Doha but with the wind forecast to ease throughout the race, early pace was the key and it was here Souben’s crew excelled.
Despite the gap between Souben and Pouligny at the finish, the remainder of fleet remained tightly packed for most of the race with little opportunity for tactics or cunning to come into play. Souben commented: “We’re very happy with the win and I am pleased with the way my crew sailed. Winning the start and getting around the top mark with clear wind was important and we achieved that. The downwind conditions were perfect and we were able to sail clear of the fleet and stay out in front.”
Souben says that despite the 31 minute winning margin his crew remain wary of the potential of Team BAE Systems and Team Commercial Bank and will have to fight hard to maintain their record.
Cedric Pouligny, who is skippering the same Omani crew that finished fifth in the 2011 Tour du France a la Voile onboard Team BAE Systems, commented:“It was a great start. Most of the racing was downwind all the way to the finish line so it was quick – I would say it was pretty perfect sailing conditions for the first leg.
“There was a pretty close battle between us, Team Commercial Bank and Team Renaissance, so we are very happy to finish second. The three were fighting for a pretty long way. I think that is normal in these kind of conditions and as the boats are so evenly matched the level of racing was very good”
Another notable performance was that of Arabian sailor Ahmed Al Mamari and his all-Omani crew on Team Renaissance which finished a credible fourth after holding onto second place for all but 20 miles of the 241 kilometre leg. Al Mamari says it was a good result for his crew and that things might have played out differently had they not had a brief encounter with a wayward fishing net.
“We were in second place and holding position against Team BAE Systems and Team Commercialbank when we ran into the net. Despite stalling for a few minutes while we cleared our keel I’m proud of the way my crew sailed and we’ll continue to improve as the race progresses.”
One spot back, Dee Caffari’s all women-crew sailing Al Thuraya BankMuscat finished a close fifth and was amongst the front runners for most of the race. Commenting at the end of the leg, Caffari said her amateur Omani crew sailed the race of their lives and believes there is a lot more gas in the tank yet.
“The crew work onboard was pretty good but it will get better and I believe that we’re a real podium chance as our communications as a crew improve. It was a great downwind leg and valuable time for the girls sailing with a spinnaker from the top mark to the finish.”
The second leg of the race sails from The Pearl Marina, Doha, south to Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club on Wednesday February 15 (1000 hours local time) and is the longest and most challenging of the tour covering 296km. Meanwhile the fleet will get valuable practice today with a series of short in-shore races where they will sail with a extra non-professional guest onboard, giving a chance for VIPs and media to be part of the action. These races do not count for points but will give the crews some valuable time on the water.
Over the course of 15 days of racing, the fleet will cover 1,408 kilometers, sailing from Bahrain, to Qatar, before heading to the UAE where they will visit Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah. They will then take in three stops in Omani waters – Musandam, Mussanah and the final port in Oman’s capital, Muscat.
Results from first leg and finishing time
1 COURRIER DUNKERQUE - 20.47.50
2 TEAM BAE SYSTEMS - 21.01.02
3 TEAM COMMERCIAL BANK - 21.04.45
4 TEAM RENAISSANCE - 21.06.21
5 AL TURAYA BANK MUSCAT - 21.16.50
6 TEAM KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA - 21.27.23
7 TEAM BAHRAIN - 21.27.25
8 MUSCAT 2012 - 21.39.05
9 TEAM RAS AL KAIHMAH - 21.50.46