Dream flier for Delft
Following on from their second place on leg five, the Dutch student team on TU Delft, scored the most emphatic victory we have seen to date in EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour on the event’s sixth leg between Zighy Bay and Musannah Marina.
While the penultimate leg of the Gulf region’s long offshore yacht race was technically its second longest at 135 miles, due to lack of wind at the start and finish, the course was reduced to 65 miles. Yet thanks to a flier paying off beyond their wildest dreams, TU Delft extended away, at one point leading her rivals by almost 10 miles. While typically the identical Farr 30 yachts used in EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour finish minutes or seconds apart, the Dutch students concluded the leg a massive 1 hour and 12 minutes ahead of second place.
After EFG Bank (Monaco) led through the afternoon and evening, in the early hours of this morning, the wind disappeared leaving the eight Farr 30s floundering for two to three hours, also beaten back by a short chop. While BAE Systems headed offshore, followed by race leader AISM, TU Delft went inshore.
The Dutch team’s navigator Koen de Smedt explained their move: “Every race we have done here so far we have seen a land breeze late at night so that was basically what we were hoping for close to shore. And it was even more favoured to us than we thought it would be in the beginning.”
TU Delft skipper Kay Heemskerk admitted that taking the flier had been very stressful at the time, but de Smedt’s decision came good and the 5-7 knots of wind they saw was enough to propel them down the race course as their competitors continued to struggle. “We were pretty surprised. We knew it would be favoured inshore and afterwards we didn’t see any boats. We heard at the gate we were in front and it wasn’t until more than an hour later that we heard the second boat passing the gate. It really was the dream flier for us.”
They continued on down the course subsequently hearing that with the wind dying the Race Committee had elected to shorten the course at the gate. “It was crazy, shouting and screaming on board, we were very happy,” said Heemskerk of when they heard they had won. “It was great, a good experience. Hopefully we can use this good vibe on the last leg tomorrow.”
On board EFG Bank (Monaco) they opted for the prudent course of sticking to the shortest route and the crew was surprised on reaching the gate to discover they were not first. “It was a long leg, very light, very hard, but interesting,” said skipper Sidney Gavignet.
Delft’s monumental also came as a surprise to Mohsin Al Busaidi, skipper of Team Renaissance. “It was frustrating because we thought when we passed the gate that just Sidney was in front and suddenly we heard that Delft had crossed more than one hour earlier."
Otherwise Al Busaidi said he was pleased with their performance on this leg. “Everyone worked very hard all night and we had good tactics from Thierry and Ahmed was very good helming. It was very difficult because the wind stopped for almost two hours. We had to change from the jib to spinnaker and back three or four times, and were still only making 0.5 knots.”
Dee Caffari, skipper of the all-women’s team on Al Thuraya Bank Muscat, admitted their night had been a ‘challenging’ one. “We must have floated around for a good four hours without seeing more than three knots of wind and we got lot of big fat zeros on the speedo. We definitely crossed our track a couple of times – we were digging a groove!
“In hindsight we got caught in No Man’s Land. We didn’t commit offshore or on the beach. Instead we got stuck in the middle playing shifts and we lost out because of that. In fact we crossed tacks with Delft who ended up hours ahead of everyone. If only we’d gone with them...”
With the event reaching its conclusion in Muscat tomorrow, significant after this leg is that EFG Bank (Monaco) only trails BAE Systems by half a point: Whichever of the two boats wins into The Wave, Muscat tomorrow will take second place overall.
The points have also closed up between BAE Systems and overall leader Bertrand Pace’s AISM, with BAE Systems taking third to AISM’s fourth on this leg. AISM has not won it yet – victory could still go to BAE Systems if she wins into The Wave, Muscat and AISM finishes sixth or worse. With both Sidney Gavignet and Bertrand Pace gunning for them, tomorrow is going to be a tough one for the BAE Systems crew.
|3||EFG Bank Monaco||2||21.25|
|7||Al Thuraya Bank Muscat||7||47.25|
|8||Royal Navy of Oman||TLE||62.5|