Sailing Arabia - Team Ras Al Khaimah takes a leg win after a closely fought battle with the rest of the fleet. All competitors in Sailing Arabia-The Tour enjoyed one of the most evenly matched races of the event with only minutes separating them as they crossed through the scoring gates.
The start, off Dibba at the south of Musandam, gave the teams another windy downwind start with crews shouting instructions to each other to get the best start. After almost 5 hours of sailing to the first gate, New Caledonia crossed the first scoring gate off Fujeirah at 16:45. They were followed a minute later by Team Commercialbank Group. A small gap had opened up before Renaissance crossed ten minutes later, followed by Team Ras Al Khaimah and The Royal Navy of Oman. As the teams sailed into the evening and another stunning sunset over the jebels along the coastline, the fleet prepared themselves for a windy night at sea- a stark contrast to the previous day of luxury in Six Senses Zighy Bay.
At just after 3am the committee boat got a surprise as the first boat approached the last scoring gate, 30 miles from the finish. Instead of New Caledonia it was the fun-loving crew of Ras Al Khaimah who emerged first into the race officer’s spotlight. Another surprise was only one minute behind as the Royal Navy of Oman cheered themselves across in second place, less than one minute after Ras Al Khaimah. A ten minute break for Jean-Michel Gandon, the race officer, saw his fellow countrymen on New Caledonia cross in third place, match-racing with Team Commercialbank Group who were a matter of seconds behind. Renaissance was uncharacteristically chasing the fleet, but only with a space of two minutes. To see a fleet sailing for fifteen hours through the night with only thirteen minutes separating them shows the caliber of the sailors on the boats and how everyone is so evenly matched after almost two weeks of racing.
Soon after a perfect dawn broke over the Oman Sea to show the coast near Musannah Sports Village, two boats were spotted just over the horizon racing towards the committee boat. Not until they were closer could it be made out that it was Team Ras Al Khaimah who was leading the group and coming in fast with Team Commercialbank Group hot on their heels. Renaissance crossed the line a few minutes after with Team New Caledonia in the uncharacteristic position of following the leaders in.
An ecstatic Yousuf bin Lahej, crewmember on Ras Al Khaimah, and the only Emirati in the fleet, spoke to the press once he stepped off the boat and onto the dock, ‘We are all really, really happy with the win here into Musannah. It was a long and tactical race that tested all our skills but it was our skipper who made the right call at the right time and that gave us the first place. We were quite a bit behind the leaders but we chose an inshore course when the other boats stuck a little further offshore where there was less wind. When we came together again we were just in the lead from Team Commercialbank Group and it was a very close duel with them to the finish line.’ Ras Al Khaimah skipper, Mark Fielberg, credited the win to a good rest the night before, ‘In the last leg we won a prize of a night’s stay in Six Senses Zighy Bay for the whole team and I reckon it helped us all focus a little bit more- if they want to look after us every night next year during the Tour I’m sure we can win every leg! We are a new team and don’t have much time together on the boat so we have been pushing hard all the way but only now do we feel settled as a team so we’re looking forward to the next leg and next year.’
The fleet will enjoy a rest day in the Millennium Hotel in Musannah Sports Village on Saturday with the final leg, a fast sprint down the coast to the finish line at The Wave, Muscat on Sunday. The boats are expected to arrive at The Wave, Muscat around 4pm and all members of the public are welcome to come and show their support and cheer the boats in. Provisional Leg 5 results*:
Ras Al Khaimah 09:24
Team Commercialbank Group 09:27
New Caledonia 09:39
Royal Navy of Oman 10:52 Overall results*
New Caledonia 18pts
Team Commercialbank Group 26pts
Ras Al Khaimah 35pts
Royal Navy of Oman 55pts
GAC Team Pindar 71pts
* Leg and overall results are pending a protest from two of the teams. http://www.omansail.com/