Mark Lloyd /

Podium placers fight back

As the race leader AISM suffers a collision in Sailing Arabia - The Tour's RAK inport race

Tuesday February 19th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Arab Emirates

EFG Bank (Monaco) and BAE Systems, the teams fighting for second place in EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour, came out best today during the Ras Al Khaimah in-port racing.

H.H Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud Al Qasimi, Crown Prince of Ras Al Khaimah was on the dock in Al Hamra marina to survey the fleet as they set off today.

Following the race’s delayed arrival into Al Hamra last night, the race committee only ran two races today. The course for these was inside the narrow confines of the harbour, allowing the racing to be easily viewed from the shore.

In the first race, held in 5-6 knots, EFG Bank (Monaco) led around the course, only to be pipped at the post by BAE Systems, Cedric Pouligny’s team rolling past them just metres from the line.

“We couldn’t do what we wanted to do,” admitted Sidney Gavignet later. “The mistake is that we should have gybed earlier and when we gybed we did so poorly.”

However in the second race, held in fractionally more wind, EFG Bank (Monaco) was in the same situation, leading around the course, and on this occasion hung on, to claim their second in-port race win.

“We got lucky a bit,” admitted Gavignet of the second race. “We had planned to gybe at the mark, but we couldn’t because our spinnaker had some turns, so the two boats behind gybed and I think because they were together, we gained, sailing better angles.”

The day was not so good for AISM. Bertrand Pace’s team has been dominant in the inshores previously, but today was not shining.

“We are not very happy about our race,” said the team’s Benoit Briand. “It was a very nice race course, but we didn’t sail like we usually do. We didn’t start very well so we were behind and if you are mid-fleet all through the race it makes it very difficult to win. We are not very happy about that. I’d like to forget today.”

But a significant issue for the overall race leaders was they suffered a collision with Renaissance coming into the first mark during the second race. AISM was coming in on starboard tack with rights while Renaissance was coming in on port without rights. For Renaissance's crew the choice that needed to be made in a split second was to duck behind AISM or tack before reaching them. Unfortunately Renaissance skipper Moshin al Busaidi admitted that thanks to indecision between him and his professional French tactician Thierry Douillard, he hesitated before tacking. “When the helmsman is thinking of one solution and the tactician is thinking about another, there are big problems...”

Renaissance tacked, but it was too late for Pace to avoid her and the two boats touched. Renaissance came away unscathed, but she struck one of the stanchions on AISM's port side, causing the deck beneath it to be crushed.

AISM’s Benoit Briand gave his side: “To avoid Renaissance we had to luff, but the boats were too close and we couldn’t avoid having contact and we touched the starboard side of Renaissance. Unfortunately we broke our boat – the deck is not very good.”

Renaissance carried out a penalty turn to exonerate themselves while the boatbuilders will be busy effecting a repair to AISM’s deck.

On board Al Thuraya bank muscat, Dee Caffari’s all-female crew had an okay day posting two fifth places. “It is going well,” said bowwoman Raiya Al Habsi, one of four Omani women sailing on board. “We are more comfortable now with the in-port races, we are sailing better and we are happy. We know how quick we should be and looking at what the other teams are doing.”

The substantially shorter course within the harbour Al Habsi said was more challenging with more manoeuvres and less set-up time for them. As a result in the first race they made one fundamental error hoisting the fractional spinnaker instead of the masthead.

“It was my fault,” said Al Habsi sheepishly, “because the fractional spinnaker was in the wrong bag! When you come in from the offshore and you are tired... Anyway, we have learned from that.”

“I’ve got them to put a big ‘F’ on each corner of the fractional spinnaker,” advised Dee Caffari, adding that surprisingly they didn’t lose too much from their error.

During the in-ports VIP guests and journalists get to sail on board the boats and today Ahmed Pauwels, the Belgium CEO of Messe Frankfurt got to sail on board the University of Plymouth-crewed boat his company sponsors.

“It was amazing,” Pauwels commented after his team scored a 4-3 today. “It’s my first time on this type of boat. I own a boat, but to push it like they did was amazing - they are really driven they really want it.”

Messe Frankfurt is the third biggest company in the world that runs exhibitions and having had a been in the UAE for 11 years, Pauwels says he wanted to expose their brand more and talk about how their company is expanding into other countries in the region.

Tomorrow will see the start of one of the most significant legs of the entire event when the eight remaining Farr 30s leave the United Arab Emirates and pass through the Strait of Hormuz as they head towards the first Omani stopover at Zighy Bay/Dibba.




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