Pace on impeccible form
The nine teams competing in the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour were back on the water today off the Qatari capital of Doha for the first in-port races to take place during the 15 day long race between Bahrain and Muscat.
After a windless opening day to EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour, sailing conditions today were a perfect off the Doha’s magnificent development, The Pearl. 10-15 knots with flat water for the three double lap windward-leeward courses, held against the Qatari skyscraper-lined backdrop.
Bertrand Pacé and his Dubai-based Team AISM dominated the first day of in-port racing. Pacé is returning to compete in the Gulf’s longest sailboat race for a third time, hoping to repeat his first place success of 2011. “I like the mixture of inshore and offshore – it is good for us,” said the former America’s Cup helmsman. “This time of year we don’t have that much sailing we can do [in Europe] so this is good practice for us. It is a perfect two weeks.”
Having such a lengthy background sailing the Farr 30 one designs is just one reason Team AISM is doing so well. Pacé also likes the smaller nine boat fleet. “In these wind conditions it is very technical and we know how to use the boat, so I am not surprised that we have good speed. We started okay and with Cedric [Chateau] we have good tactics. When you have the speed, you sail well and start well, most of the time you will be in the top of the fleet.”
Winner of the opening leg from Bahrain to Doha, the Cédric Pouligny-skippered BAE Systems, scored a 4-2-4 today in the three races leaving her just ahead of EFG Bank Monaco and Team AISM in the overall standings.
“We raced well today,” said team BAE Systems’ Omani crewman, Ali Al Balushi. Despite celebrating his 22nd birthday today, Al Balushi has a long track record – having competed in the last three editions of SATT and in the Tour de France a la Voile. “We are very happy to be in Qatar. It is a very nice place, with friendly people - it feels like Oman,” concluded Al Balushi.
EFG Bank (Monaco) scored a 3-3-2 today. “Today was great,” said skipper Sidney Gavignet. “Conditions for us were ideal: just enough wind, flat sea, sun - all nice. The organisation did a good job to get three races in as well. We had a consistent day, we didn’t win, but I am pleased. There is some competitive racing in the top half of the fleet. We are not doing too badly for a team that is still discovering the boat.”
While the male crews were told today they had to limit their number to six (some were sailing with seven) this didn’t affect the EFG Bank (Monaco) team greatly as among their number they have Sami Al Shukaili, a bodybuilder. As crewman Fahad Al Hasni points out of his team mate with his tree trunk-sized arms “sometimes he breaks the sails – he goes very hard.”
For Dee Caffari and her all-female crew on Al-Thuraya Bank Muscat it was a difficult day as they struggled with their manoeuvring. “This really was a practice day for us,” said Caffari. “I have to say we are happy with our boat speed. In Bahrain when we were together as a team for the first time there was no wind. It is only our manoeuvres that let us down, but at least now we have something to work on. Having seen how we were against the other boats at each mark we know that there are a few boats there for the pickings.”
After today’s short course sailing series, the nine crews will tomorrow be setting their sights on the longest leg of the 15 day tour, covering 160 nautical miles between Doha and Abu Dhabi, the first stopover in the UAE.