EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour- Messe Frankfurt Sailing Team in control

Team Delft Challenge – TU Delft, Messe Frankfurt Sailing Team
© Lloyd Images
At EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour, the world-class crews competing enjoyed fast and fiercely competitive in-port racing with Messe Frankfurt Sailing Team sailing impeccably to win both inport races in off the coast of Qatar.

In doing so, the young UK team led by skipperMarcel Herrera managed to keep event favourite, Frenchman Sidney Gavignet and team on EFG Bank (Monaco) at bay, and are now just half a point from the top of the leaderboard.

Fresh from their stunning performance in the opening race, where they finished just 25 seconds behind EFG Bank (Monaco) after 100 miles, Marcel Herrera and his Messe Frankfurt Sailing Team were, not surprisingly, anxious to see how they performed in the short/sharp windward/leeward inport race courses in the bay in Doha.

It wasn’t too long however, before they realized just how much speed they had. They led round the first mark in race one and, although they only won the race by 21 seconds from EFG Bank (Monaco), they went on to repeat the performance in race two but this time with just three seconds between them and EFG Bank (Monaco).

Chatting as he came ashore, a delighted Herrera said he couldn’t believe how close it was, but more than anything, he was keen to praise the performance of his team: 'I am really, really proud of the guys because we definitely feel we had the edge on speed today. We were really ready for the inport racing because the guys were really switched on after the previous day’s performance. We all really wanted it and we all did our best.'

Inport racing - EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour 2014
© Lloyd Images

The location for the first two inport races, fairly close inshore couldn’t have been better for spectators who gathered to watch the racing to support Qatar National Sports Day, the annual public holiday. Although it was shifty owing to the shadow effects of the tall surrounding buildings, the wind was generally from the north-west reaching 12kts at times.

Commenting Doha as a sailing location, Herrera added: 'The Pearl is a fantastic place and we feel honoured to be here in this fabulous marina. As a sailing venue I would highly recommend this place and I seriously think there should be more sailing events in Doha. I, for one, would love to return.'

The prizegiving ceremony for the Leg 1 and the first two inport races took place in glorious sunshine in the sumptuous surrounding of The Peal Marina overlooking the bay and was presided by H.E. Mohammed al Wahaibi, The Sultanate of Oman’s Ambassador to Qatar and H.E. Waheed Sayyar, Bahrain’s Ambassador to Qatar.

In-Port race day - EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour 2014
© Lloyd Images

International organisations in Qatar were also thrilled to watch sailing featured during Qatar Sports Day. Chargé d’Affaires of The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Qatar - Ms. Saskia deLang said 'The Sailing Arabia Tour is a strong platform that encourages good sportsmanship and maritime knowledge sharing among the participating countries, which draws an example of solid international cooperation between our country and the Gulf region.

'We are excited to be part of the Sailing Arabia Tour as it reaches Doha on the Qatar National Sport Day and we are proud of our Dutch team who have highlighted the maritime expertise that the Netherlands has to offer to this region. We wish all the participating teams a safe and blessed journey towards the Finish Line and look forward to seeing them back in Doha next year,'Lang continued.

The second offshore leg from Doha to Abu Dhabi, UAE, is scheduled to start today. At 159 nautical miles, this is the longest leg of the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2014. It is also one of the most challenging.

Team Renaissance (OMA) - EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour 2014
© Lloyd Images

Commenting on what competitors are likely to expect, Gilles Chiorri – Race Director – said: 'Although this leg is known for its gas and oil rigs scattered along the coast we, as a race team, have been careful to make sure the route is safe which means we have included a lot of waypoints and passing marks to keep the fleet well clear of danger areas.'

Kay Heemskerk, skipper of Team Delft Challenge – TU Delft from the Netherlands, who currently lies in third place overall with a consistent string of third places, said he and his team have been talking about the strategy of Leg 2: 'The weather situation shows that it is likely to be all downwind, which is fast but there are less options for overtaking. It will also be fairly light at the start, so full focus will be on speed 100 per cent of the time. We are expecting the race will take 25 hours and we are hoping to step up our performance and improve on our string of third places so far.'

Held from February 9-24, EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour is now in its fourth year and offers 15 days of intense sailing with a mix of in-port and offshore races to test the skills the region’s best sailing talent and a selection of elite world class sailors.

EFG Bank (Monaco) - EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour 2014
© Lloyd Images

The 760-nautical mile course spans over four countries from Bahrain to Oman, with eight of the region’s premier marinas playing host as stopover venues during the seven legs of the course.

Event Website
http://www.sail-world.com/119219