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Route des Princes - Two out of three aint bad

by Sabina Mollart Rogerson on 27 Jun 2013
2013 Route des Princes © Route des Princes
After Sidney Gavignet’s Oman Air-Musandam won two of the three offshore legs sailed so far on the Routes des Princes multihull race around Europe, he now leads the overall MOD70 standings by the smallest possible margin.

With only Friday and Saturday’s inshore race series and the last offshore sprint to Morlaix-France still to be raced, they top the table only on tie break.

Oman Air-Musandam slid across the finish line on Plymouth Sound at 18 h 53 mn 06 s local time on a glorious sunny Wednesday evening, then threaded their way through the local sailing fleets engaged in their club racing, the international crew drained but contented after a nerve shredding, intense leg from Dun Laoghaire, Ireland which started on Monday morning.

They finished just 15 minutes and 27 seconds ahead of second placed Edmond de Rothschild, breaking the finish line two days seven hours 53 minutes and 6 seconds after starting in Dun Laoghaire.

Third MOD70 to finish was Jean-Pierre Dick’s Virbac-Paprec 70 at 19H 45MN 56S local time, 53 minutes and 50 seconds after the leg winner

Oman Air-Musandam had initially lost out on the fast downwind slide to the first points scoring opportunity at Wales’ Bardsey Island, but then made initial gains when they held inshore at Tuskar Rock, off Wexford, cheating the adverse tidal currents but running something of a risk as the winds close to the land were, they felt, lighter than offshore.

But they got the equation right and were able to eke out a small lead on the SE and S Irish coast, leading around Fastnet Rock.

Although they all but left their two MOD70 rivals standing after Fastnet Rock, stretching out to lead by a substantial 47 miles at one stage, it was always expected that the breezes would die off again before Bishop Rock at the Scilly Isles.


But when it did, suddenly, the MOD 70 dropping from 30kts boat speed to one knot over a 30 minutes period, and their main rival Sébastien Josse’s Edmond de Rothschild crew, then reached up to them at speed, the Oman Air-Musandam still held their nerves and their focus when the re-start happened, crept away again to win the two vital bonus points at Bishop Rock.

Oman Air-Musandam won the first leg from Valencia to Lisbon thanks to an early breakaway move, but finished third, 33 seconds behind second placed Edmond de Rothschild into Dun Laoghaire. Skipper Gavignet admitted that they had learned from their disappointing final miles into Dublin Bay when they lost out by 33 seconds to Josse’s crew.

'We kept fighting and we made it.' Said Gavignet, 'Thinking about the end of the last leg we were more vigilant this time'.

For a team which purports to have no specialist navigator, skipper Gavignet and offshore ace Neal McDonald combining their thinking to devise their key strategies, Oman Air-Musandam have established a very strong record offshore. Of the offshore points scoring opportunities, it is only at Bardsey Island that they have not taken the points as leg leaders.

'Sidney and Neal have done a great job at putting us in the right place, they work well together on strategy with clear ideas.' Explains Damian Foxall, ' The situation can change very quickly and literally in five to 10 minutes you can miss a breeze and find yourself in something totally different. We end up looking at the big picture to see not where the wind is now but where it is going to be in three or four hours and what is the low risk option, what are the advantages and potential losses and I think we are doing that well.'

Oman Air-Musandam slid across the finish line on Plymouth Sound at 18 h 53 mn 06 s local time on a glorious sunny Wednesday evening, then threaded their way through the local sailing fleets engaged in their club racing, the international crew drained but contented after a nerve shredding, intense leg from Dun Laoghaire, Ireland which started on Monday morning.

They finished just 15 minutes and 27 seconds ahead of second placed Edmond de Rothschild, breaking the finish line 2 days 7 hours 53 minutes and 6 seconds after starting in Dun Laoghaire.

Third MOD70 to finish was Jean-Pierre Dick’s Virbac-Paprec 70 at 19H 45MN 56S local time, 53 minutes and 50 seconds after the leg winner

Oman Air-Musandam had initially lost out on the fast downwind slide to the first points scoring opportunity at Wales’ Bardsey Island, but then made initial gains when they held inshore at Tuskar Rock, off Wexford, cheating the adverse tidal currents but running something of a risk as the winds close to the land were, they felt, lighter than offshore.

But they got the equation right and were able to eke out a small lead on the SE and S Irish coast, leading around Fastnet Rock.

Although they all but left their two MOD70 rivals standing after Fastnet Rock, stretching out to lead by a substantial 47 miles at one stage, it was always expected that the breezes would die off again before Bishop Rock at the Scilly Isles.

But when it did, suddenly, the MOD 70 dropping from 30kts boat speed to one knot over a 30 minutes period, and their main rival Sébastien Josse’s Edmond de Rothschild crew, then reached up to them at speed, the Oman Air-Musandam still held their nerves and their focus when the re-start happened, crept away again to win the two vital bonus points at Bishop Rock.

Oman Air-Musandam won the first leg from Valencia to Lisbon thanks to an early breakaway move, but finished third, 33 seconds behind second placed Edmond de Rothschild into Dun Laoghaire. Skipper Gavignet admitted that they had learned from their disappointing final miles into Dublin Bay when they lost out by 33 seconds to Josse’s crew.

'We kept fighting and we made it.' Said Gavignet, 'Thinking about the end of the last leg we were more vigilant this time'.

For a team which purports to have no specialist navigator, skipper Gavignet and offshore ace Neal McDonald combining their thinking to devise their key strategies, Oman Air-Musandam have established a very strong record offshore. Of the offshore points scoring opportunities, it is only at Bardsey Island that they have not taken the points as leg leaders.

'Sidney and Neal have done a great job at putting us in the right place, they work well together on strategy with clear ideas.' Explains Damian Foxall, ' The situation can change very quickly and literally in 5 to 10 minutes you can miss a breeze and find yourself in something totally different. We end up looking at the big picture to see not where the wind is now but where it is going to be in three or four hours and what is the low risk option, what are the advantages and potential losses and I think we are doing that well.'

Overal standings after Leg 3
1- Oman Air-Musandam, 126pts
2- Edmond de Rothschild, 126 pts
3- Spindrift, 122 pts
4- Virbac Paprec 70, 98pts


Sidney Gavignet, FRA, (Oman Air-Musandam):
'The thing I can say is that I think we deserve it. We sweated a lot, especially when we had a bit lead, 40 miles or something like that and went from 30 knots of boat speed to one knot in less than 30 minutes. And two hours later we saw lights on our weather side, we were doing one knot of boat speed and they were doing 14kts on the AIS. But we kept fighting and we made it. Thinking about the end of the last leg we were more vigilant this time.'

'We work well together as a team. We have done some good things in navigation, even if we have no navigator, I have to say I am happy with what we have done there (on the SE Irish coast when they stayed inshore at Tuskar Rock)'.

'It made a big difference to be inshore there. We planned to be there for a long time in advance. And then we kept playing that game, staying inshore on the Irish coast, there was much less current there. The charts were saying two knots but there was easily twice that, and when we went in, there was less current and when you have less current against you have more wind. We were not so sure about our position at that time because of the overnight black out, but when we saw them on the AIS crossing behind us that felt good'.

'At the Fastnet it was difficult, the GRIB’s were not showing anything conclusive, but we took what we had and used it, and the same at Bishop Rock, I guess we got a bit lucky, we took what we had then too. It was very tight with Edmond de Rothschild, it could have gone either way.

'We don’t speak about the overall points at the moment. Let’s wait and see'.

Damian Foxall, IRL (Oman Air-Musandam)
'Winning two legs out of three is a culmination of all the training we have done and the guys have been working since last year so if we were not at where we are now we would be disappointed. Sidney and the boys have put in a lot of hard work getting to this level so it is great, it is just fantastic. We are up against some good boats and it is a shame that Spindrift is not with us anymore.

I do not know if the win is due us splitting from the fleet or the fleet splitting from us. We did look at the option of going outside at Tuskar but to be honest the very little wind that we had seemed to be filtering down from that point and going outside the traffic lanes was going to put us a long way from the point and the little bit of wind that there was and then there is the current too.

I think what was more tricky was the Fastnet and how to deal with the South East coast. It was going to be less wind from Tuskar all the way to Cork and I think from Kinsale all the way down to Cape Clear there was actually more wind on the coast and I think we did that ok. We stayed off from Tuskar to Cork and then were on the inside.

'It was a funny morning with clouds off the coast and no wind, but ultimately there was some'.

'We knew there was going to be a park up and that new breeze was going to come from the North, so it was the lesser of two evils. As a crew we make a call. It is funny because without a lot of talking we seem like our ideas are shared. Sidney and Neal have done a great job at putting us in the right place, they work well together on strategy with clear ideas. The situation can change very quickly and literally in 5 to 10 minutes you can miss a breeze and find yourself in something totally different. Prince de Bretagne was with us for a significant part of the race down the South East Coast but then did something slightly different going offshore and we gybed in and they are behind'.

'We end up looking at the big picture to see now where the wind is now but where it is going to be in three or four hours and what is the low risk option. What are the advantages and potential losses?

It was a bit light coming into Plymouth and it was great to arrive in the sunshine. The smiles crept onto our faces as we sailed passed the submarines. I am looking forward to my first Cornish pasty in a while!'

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