25 seconds separate first arrivals
With Frenchman Sidney Gavignet at the helm, the team crossed the finish line at 18:59 local time just 25 seconds ahead of the ever-threatening Messe Frankfurt Sailing Team, which led the fleet for most of the breezy run.
In this, the Gulf’s only long distance offshore race, running between Bahrain and Muscat, Oman, Messe Frankfurt’s skipper Marcel Herrera demonstrated just how important it is to train consistently for an event like this. He and his team, which comprise a variety of sailors from the UK with an average age of 26, have been training hard in Plymouth for the majority of the year and their first leg performance is a reflection of the work the team has put into its campaign.
The results of both the leading teams are even more impressive considering they both ran aground sailing close to the shore trying to keep out the 3 knots of tide. EFG Bank (Monaco) also suffered jib failure on the start line and was last to get underway.
Commenting on his win and how he and his team managed claw their way up the fleet, Gavignet commented: “I think the key to our win today was boatspeed. After our jib problem, when the tack ring blew out we came back from behind, and eventually overtook the leaders. Interestingly, they managed to stick with us because they used our boatspeed as a reference, so it was hard to get rid of them.
“As for the grounding on the beach, well, basically in an effort to avoid the strong tidal current we pushed it a bit too hard. It was more shallow than it indicated on the chart.”
Messe Frankfurt Sailing Team's Marcel Herrera said it was a tough opening race, but incredibly rewarding: “I think it was Sidney’s [Gavignet] experience that was the winning factor today. He would have been in lots of situations like this before and he knew how to deal with it. Our experience was bit lacking so he managed to turn that into a positive for him and show us how to do it properly.”
In third place was the Dutch crew on Team Delft Challenge – TU Delft, skippered by Kay Heemskerk. This team also demonstrated huge potential right from the start. After a short, yet testing first beat, the team led at the first mark and was always in contention.
Heemskerk commented on what lessons the team learned from the race: “We had a good start and it was close racing almost to the end. The most important lesson we learnt today was to stay focused all the time. That is something we’ll take with us in the next race.”
In Qatar, the fleet is based in The Pearl, the marina development in Doha’s West Bay where it will spend the next two days.
Katie Pettibone, American skipper of Al-Thuraya Bank Muscat, the all-female team which finished fourth today, said although she has sailed into Doha before the approach never fails to impress: “It was epic sailing today, and our approach to Doha was truly amazing as always. It was actually really enjoyable to sail in the daylight for a change because the last two years we have arrived in the dark.”
The timing of The Tour's arrival to Qatar coincides with Qatar National Sports Day celebrations. This annual public holiday was initiated in 2012 to promote a healthy lifestyle among the population in Qatar, crews preparing for their first in-port racing off Doha’s West Bay today, those enjoying the public holiday will get the chance to see the action first hand.