Fishing net highjump
Rather like Hollywood stuntmen who are able to lay a motorbike on its side as they dive between the wheels of a moving articulated lorry, so the crews in EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour had to perform a similar stunt as in the dark they ran into multiple fishing nets en route from Dubai to Al Hamra in the Ras al Khaimah emirate.
Due to Customs' procedures in Dubai taking longer than anticipated, the scheduled mid-morning start was delayed until 14:50, forcing crews to re-equip themselves and their boats ready for a night time finish.
The 53 mile leg up the coast to Al Hamra is the second shortest in the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour and should have been routine. The race was one of intense fighting with the wind ranging from zero to as much as 17 knots, the boats reaching or sailing downwind with Bertrand Pace’s overall leader, AISM, continually a nose ahead.
However around 20 miles out from the finish, an hour and a half after it turned dark, and at a time when the boats were being pushed to limit sailing high under their big spinnakers, the fleet came across an area densely populated with fishing boats and their nets.
As Cedric Pouligny, skipper of BAE Systems described the high jump manoeuvre they had to perform each time they ran into a net: “Basically you went from 10 knots of speed to zero, then you had to broach and make even more heel before the boat could get off again.”
Unfortunately the finishing order on this leg was determined by those who got through the fishing nets the fastest.
After their disappointing result on the Abu Dhabi to Dubai leg yesterday, Marcel Herrera’s University of Plymouth team on Messe Frankfurt had managed to get back in with the lead trio and were into fourth place when they encountered the nets. “I think we hit eight fishing nets - along with every other boat, but the other boats seemed to broach a bit more when they hit them,” said Herrera. “We ploughed through them and managed to get a good technique going so that we didn’t get caught.”
Because of this Messe Frankfurt emerged in second place and as the wind dropped subsequently they were closing on first placed AISM as they crossed the finish line at 21:49 (local time), three and a half minutes after Pace’s team. “It makes up for yesterday,” said Herrera.
AISM crewman Benoit Briand said that through the day their speed was good and being ahead they had been able to control their opponents before they encountered the fishing nets. “We were lucky that we got over them quite easily, our keel seemed to pass over the nets.” The AISM team was also pleased that Messe Frankfurt came home second as it puts more distance between themselves and second placed BAE Systems in the overall results. “Bertrand is going to be even more difficult to beat. He is going to be hard to catch,” admitted BAE Systems skipper Cedric Pouligny.
One of the most dramatic moments occurred when BAE Systems and EFG Bank (Monaco) both got caught on the same fishing net at the same time and started to get drawn into the middle of the net so that at one point they came very close to colliding, only 2m apart.
Mohsin al Busaidi’s Renaissance came home in fifth place. The Omani skipper, the first sailor from the Middle East to sail non-stop around the world, reckoned that his team had hit maybe seven nets. “We got stuck in the first one. It was a surprise because we were all together and only two boats got stuck and other boats got through.”
Al Busaidi’s solution was speed: “If you are going more than 10 knots you can pass it. We stopped once for three or four minutes and at other times we were slowed down from 10 knots to 5 and then we were off again. Fortunately Mohammed in our team is a fisherman...”
Most disappointed last night when they got in was Dee Caffari’s women’s team on Al Thuraya bank muscat and Kay Heemskerk’s Dutch team on TU Delft. Having been caught in nets and then further suffering after the wind went light, they finished outside of the time limit and have been scored ‘TLE’ (time limit expired) or seven points for this leg.
“It was disappointing that we didn’t get to start until five hours late and then to sail through miles of fishing nets in the dark,” said Al Thuraya bank muscat’s Liz Bayliss, one of two Americans in the all-female team that also includes four Omanis.
Their race effectively came to a grinding halt when they got entangled in a fishing net and remained that way for more than an hour. “We hit something and then we got stuck – the fishing boat finally came over to us and cut the net but retrieved both ends of it. There were nets everywhere,” Bayliss continued.
After the late finish, so today a maximum of two in-port races are schedules to be held off Al Hamra with the first start scheduled for 11.00.