by Oman Sail
EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2014, the region’s only long distance offshore sailing endurance race between Bahrain and Muscat, enjoyed perfect sailing conditions for the opening leg between Manama, Bahrain and Doha, Qatar.
EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour 2014
Beautiful, clear and sunny skies with ideal winds ranging from 16-18kts from the north-west greeted the crews for the 100 mile first leg from Bahrain with a tense sprint finish expected amongst the leading teams on arrival into The Pearl, Qatar later today.
The unique event inspired by Oman Sail runs from February 9-24, 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.
Oman Sail 3 - EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour 2014
Following yesterday’s prestigious opening ceremony the teams faced a delayed start with the first leg of the race from Bahrain to Qatar eventually getting underway at 0725 Bahrain time today. The start line was set just over a mile offshore, and the first mark of the course, a further mile and a half upwind.
Speaking on behalf of the Race management Team, Gilles Chiorri – Race Director – said: 'Due to unforeseen circumstances regarding final safety checks and onboard equipment the Race Management Team took the decision to postpone the start by a matter of hours.'
Commenting on the first leg of the race and what the crews are likely to expect, he added: 'This leg is mainly downwind under spinnaker. As the fleet passes the north point of the Peninsula of Qatar the wind should decrease to 15 knots and the sea state likely to flatten out. With the current wind conditions giving an estimate of 7.5kts of boatspeed across the fleet, the estimated time of arrival in Doha is 2005 this evening.'
Oman Sail 2 - EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour 2014
The wind conditions mean the race will return immediately to its original schedule, making up time and allowing for the first in-port racing off the coast of Doha’s West Bay to take place on 11th February as planned as part of Qatar’s National Sport Day celebrations. When the fleet arrives later today in Doha, Qatar it will be based in the stunning marina at The Pearl. Here crews will relax overnight before they set sail again for short in-port races.
This year a total of six teams are taking part including three from Oman – Team Renaissance, Royal Navy of Oman and Al-Thuraya Bank Muscat –EFG Bank (Monaco), Messe Frankfurt Sailing Team, and Team Delft Challenge – TU Delft. To add to the international flavour of the event, there are seven different nations represented among the crew including France, Germany, Ireland, America, Great Britain, Netherlands, Belgium as well as the local Omani teams.
Oman Sail - EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour 2014
The young team on Messe Frankfurt Sailing Team with 21 year old Marcel Herrera at the helm had a good start at the pin end of the line, with Sidney Gavignet’s EFG Bank (Monaco) team just to windward. However, a problem with the jib onboard EFG Bank (Monaco) meant they were four minutes late starting. Kay Heemskerk’s Team Delft Challenge – TU Delft, also had a good start and was in close combat with Messe Frankfurt Sailing Team heading to the mark.
The short one and half nautical mile leg to the windward mark gave crews an opportunity to settle into the race before they headed off on a long spinnaker run towards Doha. Kay Heemskerk’s Team Delft Challenge – TU Delft sailed a good beat to lead round the mark followed by Messe Frankfurt Sailing Team, and Katie Pettibone and girls on Al-Thuraya Bank Muscat
Today’s close start highlights the level of racing the teams are likely to encounter over the next two weeks. The quality of sailing is impressive, which endorses the views of many of the skippers who believe that consistency and making the least mistakes are key to winning this regatta.
Marcel Herrera skipper of Messe Frankfurt talking about his strategy for the first leg said: 'We took the extra time we had with the postponement to rest and re-analyse the weather routing. We expect the leg to be a fun downwind ride to Doha and so the start will be particularly important.'
AbdulAziz Al Hussaini, skipper of regional entry Royal Navy of Oman said he and his team utilized the extra time they had before the start with a bit more on-the-water practice: 'It was a great opportunity to squeeze in a final bit of training, and it turned out to be extremely useful. As we head off to the start today we feel more confident as a team.'
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.
Oman Sail 1 - EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour 2014