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Transat Jacques Vabre - Oman Air-Musandam kicks off

by Oman Sail on 8 Nov 2013
The Transat Jaques Vabre 2013 Lloyd Images ©
At the Transat Jacques Vabre 2013, Oman Air’s French-Irish duo was delighted to be starting the race ahead of their original Friday schedule. 'We are very happy to be off at last,' said Sidney Gavignet, French skipper of Oman Air-Musandam, as he stepped onto the boat this morning.

'We have been ashore for over a week now and are keen to get going, to get out of the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay in one piece and then once we get off Cape Finisterre, to putting the hammer down towards Itajaii in Brasil.'

The IMOCA 60s, Multi 50s and Class 40s have been postponed ashore since Sunday while the race committee waited for a safe opportunity to start the 11th edition of this classic. The weather window that has opened briefly is still a fierce prospect for the duo and the rest of the fleet with relatively light 15-knot conditions at the start rapidly building to 25 knots as the fleet races out of the English Channel and then higher still to between 25 and 30 knots in the Bay of Biscay with a five metre sea state.

'The first few days will be very tough,' said Ireland’s most celebrated offshore sailor, Damian Foxall. 'We will be beating into 25 knots and being very careful of how we manage the boat. When we reach Cape Finisterre, we should be able to ease the sails out a bit and concentrate more on the speed. These MOD70s are superb seaworthy machines, but obviously two-handed you have to anticipate much more and shorten sail much earlier.'

The two sailors are a well-oiled pair having trained intensively together for the last few months and raced the MOD70 Oman Air-Musandam fully crewed during the Around Europe Route des Princes, the Artemis Challenge and the Rolex Fastnet Race earlier in the year.

'We are quite similar in our approach, and have to be careful not to push too hard. In some ways, the fresher we arrive in Itajaii the better,' said Sidney. 'I think we have a good race ahead, the competition is tough onboard Edmond de Rothschild and for the first and second days we are going to be very much in ‘safety mode’. From Cape Finisterre, we will move into the speed phase of the race.'

CEO of Oman Sail, David Graham, who was on site in Le Havre to wish the team fair winds, said he was enormously proud of how much the Omani MOD70 crew had developed this year but racing two handed on a radical high-performance multihull like Oman Air-Musandam required very advanced skills.

'Sidney and Damian, with their huge knowledge and experiences from a lifetime of top end offshore racing are such highly respected icons in Oman that this milestone event will give our Omani sailors another valuable learning opportunity. Some have been working with them as shore crew and the rest learning by watching closely as dedicated supporters. It is a big team effort.

'Most importantly Sidney and Damian’s immense achievements feed back to our wider Oman Sail objectives for establishing role models and inspirational figures. It is people like them that motivate the youth of Oman to take up sailing and excel in the sport.'

Wishing Gavignet and Foxall fair winds and a safe passage, Wayne Pearce, CEO of Oman Air, said the Sultanate’s MOD70 flagship entry in such a high profile event would once again turn the spotlight on Oman.

'It is a pleasure to be sponsoring these two giants of the sailing world, each of whom has two challenges: firstly to achieve the best possible result in the Transat Jacques Vabre and, secondly, to help Oman Air to raise international awareness of the extraordinary beauty, rich culture and warm hospitality that awaits visitors to the Sultanate of Oman.

'By linking Oman Air’s name to this incredible campaign, we aim to encourage increased numbers of elite discerning travellers to discover the unique holiday destination of Oman, thereby building on the success of our other international marketing initiatives and our active support for sporting excellence in the Sultanate.'

Sidney Gavignet estimates that the race across the Atlantic Ocean will take approximately 12 days – we wish them fair winds and safe passage.

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