Slow start for Sailing Arabia-The Tour
The first leg of the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour was completed in glorious sunshine today with crews fighting out a sprint finish off the coast of Qatar following a light wind start to the 100 mile leg from Bahrain.
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.
Over the course of yesterday afternoon and through the night the nine crews 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.
Gilles Chiorri, Race Director of EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour, explained sport sailing is 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”
Fortunately at just after 0800 this morning, the breeze began to fill in and the Oman Sail Race Committee was able to set a course, shortened to 46 miles, towards Doha, south down Qatar’s east coast.
Leading home by just 250m to establish an early lead in the region’s only long distance offshore sailing race was Team BAE Systems (Oman), skippered by leading Tour Voile skipper, Frenchman Cedric Pouligny.
“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," said Pouligny. "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.”
Completing the top three positions, with only a boatlength between them was EFG Bank (Monaco) skippered by Sidney Gavignet in second and the young University of Plymouth team on Team Messe Frankfurt, led by Marcel Herrera in third.
In the early part of the shortened race pre-race favourites, Bertrand Pacé skipper of 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 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.”
Racing is scheduled to resume tomorrow when spectators will be able to watch the nine Farr 30s do battle as they compete in their first series of in-port races. This will coincide with Qatar celebrating its National Sports Day public holiday. Initiated and supported by the Qatar Olympic Committee, this includes a host of sports 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 uncover local talent.