The defending champions of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour clung on to the narrowest of leads after 24 hours at sea in the longest and toughest stage of the event. The crew sailing aboard EFG Bank Monaco this morning (Tuesday) had a slim half-a-mile advantage over second-placed as the halfway stage of the 280nm sprint from Doha, Qatar, to Khasab, Oman, neared.
The nine international crews set sail from Doha’s The Pearl-Qatar on Monday in fresh 10-15 knot winds on the third leg of five that make up the sailing adventure around the Arabian Gulf. EFG Bank Monaco went into the leg as the in-form team having won the second offshore stage from Abu Dhabi to Doha and the Doha In-Port Race series to see them top the overall rankings.
The fleet has so far encountered steady breeze but the wind is forecast to become lighter and more fickle, which will make holding onto any lead trickier for EFG Monaco’s French skipper Sidney Gavignet and his men in the second half of the leg. Gavignet has led his team to tour victories in 2014 and 2015 – and if he is successful in defending his crown this year he will become the first skipper ever to win three editions of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour.
Behind EFG Bank Monaco an epic tussle was on Tuesday ensuing between Omani crews Al Mouj, Muscat and Renaissance Services, and Kuwaiti-backed Team Zain. Al Mouj, Muscat, led by Frenchman Nico Lunven, had a half-mile advantage over their rivals, while Renaissance Services and Team Zain were neck and neck. All three teams were within a mile of EFG Bank Monaco.
Leg 3 of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is the longest and toughest of the event, comprising three days and two nights at sea in little comfort on 30ft racing yachts.
Gilles Chiorri, race director of Sailing Arabia – The Tour, said the first 24 hours of leg 3 had been intense for the crews. “There was no let-up overnight for the teams as they engaged in tactical manoeuvres to cover their closest rivals,” he said. “As well as playing the wind shifts, the teams also had to navigate around numerous forbidden zones and the constant commercial traffic in the Gulf. With such a demanding game being played there is little chance for rest onboard. “Even though the wind has dropped to 10 knots from the south east, all crewmembers are on the rail to generate the maximum power possible from their Farr 30 yachts. Sleeping sitting on the rail is not feasible, so crew are sharing their stories of previous editions of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour, and the “fast and furious” downwind legs we have sailed in years past.”
The ETA for the leading boats into Khasab is Wednesday afternoon. The crews will then have just a few hours to overcome their exhaustion before they take to the water once more for leg 4, a 140nm sprint to Sohar. The final leg of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour starts from Sohar on February 28 bound for Muscat.