Game, set and match for AISM
Brisk downwind conditions, taking the full fleet of nine Farr 30s home to The Wave, Muscat provided the perfect conclusion to this year’s EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour.
The fleet leaving Mussanah Marina at dawn this morning was up to its full strength with the return of Adil Khaled and his Team Abu Dhabi, following their grounding and helicopter rescue on leg two.
A fitting end to the event was that honours on the leg should go to French America’s Cup helmsman Bertrand Pacé and the crew of AISM who have constantly dominated SATT 2013. Over the last two and a half weeks they have won five of the seven offshore legs and set the tone for the in-ports when they claimed three out of three races in Doha. AISM won 2013 EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour by 10.25 points.
“We enjoyed this year’s event a lot,” said Pacé. “We have a good crew - everyone was very focussed on winning this race. It is much easier when the guys are working like that because we have good speed, good navigation and tactics. This tour was much easier than the previous years because there was less night sailing and more downwind. Conditions were similar to the Mediterranean this year with the thermal effect. But still it is two weeks of racing, so it is still hard.”
The pressure was fully on Cédric Pouligny and the crew of BAE Systems, going into this final leg just 0.5 points ahead of a hungry Sidney Gavignet and EFG Bank (Monaco) and with Bernard Pacé always one to aggressively defend his overall lead. In fact Pacé’s dirty work was done for him by Gavignet who attempted to luff BAE Systems off the course. However he never quite succeeded. In the end BAE Systems remained a nose ahead and although the two boats finished the leg in lowly seventh and eighth positions respectively, this was enough for them to take second and third places overall.
“We had more to lose than to gain, so basically it was a bit of a match race,” said Pouligny. “We had a very good start and were first at the upwind mark and then Bertrand Pace managed to pass us, but he was not really important. Sidney gained on us and was trying to make us go higher until we got separated from the fleet. We were in a difficult position, but we managed to have good speed and stay low.”
The EFG Bank (Monaco) skipper had a few regrets about how the leg had panned out: “We had a good race, but we should have gone and got them before the start line,” said Gavignet. “But it was a nice race, a nice fight with everyone.”
After knocking on the door of the podium throughout EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour, Mohsin al Busaidi and his Renaissance team finally came good on this leg taking third place behind Messe Frankfurt.
“BAE and EFG were fighting for second, so maybe that gave us a little more of a chance to get close,” admitted Al Busaidi, whose team sailed the race with French pros Bruno Dubois and Thierry Douillard on board. “But finally we are on the podium.”
In the inter-student battle a second place on leg five and after their incredible victory into Musannah yesterday, saw fourth place overall taken goto the Dutch students on TU Delft, ahead of Marcel Herrera’s Messe Frankfurt.
“It was a good race for us,” said TU Delft skipper Kay Heemskerk, who hopes to return as skipper again in 2014. “We are happy that we’ve been here and we are looking forward to next year. It was a good race - the heavy winds are fun for the adrenalin, but the light winds are also very exciting. It was well organised, good racing, good teams, the boats are perfect for racing and we are pretty satisfied.”
Like TU Delft, Messe Frankfurt, with her mostly British crew from the University of Plymouth, also had their moments including several podium positions on the offshore legs and coming joint top in the Abu Dhabi in port races.
“The event has been fantastic,” said Messe Frankfurt skipper, Marcel Herrera. “Everyone took out of it exactly what we came in for. We got to play it up with the big guys and have some fun sailing and the result is great. We are in it for next year and we are looking at improving and building on our experience.”
Starlets of the show, regardless of where in the GCC they visited, have been Dee Caffari’s all-female crew on Al Thuraya Bank Muscat.
Caffari, the first woman to have sailed singlehanded around the world non-stop in both directions, said today’s leg was a fine conclusion to SATT, even though they just missed the podium: “We had great wind and good conditions and really close racing. It was intense and a really good way to finish a great event. This was our chance to get on the podium and we missed it by just two gybes. On the finish line all the girls all burst into tears - I was quite emotional for them, but it shows just how much they wanted it – we wouldn’t have got that reaction two weeks ago.”
Almost speechless with disappointment, hiding behind her sunglasses, was Al Thuraya’s Intisar Al-Tobi one of four Omani sailors on board. “I am sad, because we were so close and we did our best and we tried SO hard to finish in the top three places,” she said.
Attending the final prizegiving at The Wave, Muscat this afternoon was event sponsor George Catsiapis, Managing Director of EFG Bank (Monaco), who has been following the event closely: “It was a stressful race with boats going aground - Abu Dhabi was the first victim and in a way they were the winners of the race because they showed the morale to come back and finish off the race. But it is the mixture of top international skippers and GCC sailors that is fantastic.”
Catsiapis confirmed that EFG Bank (Monaco) will return as a sponsor of Sailing Arabia – The Tour in 2014.
David Graham, CEO of Oman Sail, organiser of the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour commented of this year’s event: “It has been amazing. The level of competition has gone up. I’m particularly pleased with the girl’s boat and that they have four Omani sailors on board and have shown moments of brilliance. We have had some really interesting conversations in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar, so I’m looking forwards to seeing who will be on the start line next year. And the media-side has gone amazingly well.”
Graham believes that SATT next year will reach critical mass with more Gulf countries entered, 12-15 fully funded boats and a title sponsor.
“I am also particularly pleased that our predominantly Omani events team, designed this event, managed an event, we were able to get a prestigious bank domiciled in Switzerland to put their confident in them and this race,” concluded Graham.