Kings of consistency EFG Bank Monaco notched up a race win and four podium finishes to go top of Duqm Stadium Racing series in the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour (SATT) on Wednesday.
The reigning EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour champions were on top form as the second of five stadium racing battles took place inside the walls of the Port of Duqm, one of Oman’s newest ports.
The in-port racing is part of a new-look EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour that also includes five longer coastal raids along Oman’s stunning coastline, sailing in super-fast Diam 24 multihulls.
Contrary to the opening clashes of the 14-day regatta that took place in Salalah in big breeze, the Duqm Stadium Racing series tested the eight-team fleet’s skills in lighter winds of around eight to ten knots.
After five intense races EFG Bank Monaco, led by French sailing star Thierry Douillard and featuring Oman’s own Ali Al Balushi, emerged on top with a win in race two plus two seconds and two thirds.
French young guns Lorina Golfe du Limonade and Beijaflore also put in impressives performance, both actually beating EFG Bank Monaco’s race win tally with two victories each.
However less consistent results in the remaining three races saw them forced to settle for second and third respectively in the Duqm Stadium Racing series.
Crucially, EFG Bank Monaco’s consistent results have reduced their deficit to 2018 EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour leaders Beijaflore to just five points at this early stage of the regatta.
“We had five super-cool stadium races today so I think the whole fleet is happy,” said Douillard, a longstanding member of four-time winners EFG Bank Monaco.
“We won two races and were always top three. Mathieu Richard (EFG Bank Monaco helmsman) did a great job with the starts and we had good speed around the course. We played the shifts and managed our tactics well. It’s really close out on the water and we have a lot more racing to do.”
Lorina Golfe du Morbihan co-skipper and trimmer Riwan Perron said his young French-flagged crew’s results in Duqm put them in good stead as they aim for an overall podium finish on their EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour debut.
“Today was tricky – the weather forecast was for light winds, and in these sorts of conditions anything can happen,” Perron said. “We sailed really well in the light winds today and we came home with two wins. We are targetting a podium position overall and I think we’ve made a very good start.”
In a clear sign of just how tight the racing is in this edition, six of the eight crews scored podium finishes at some point during the five-race series.
Averda, a British-Omani team led by two-time Olympian Stevie Morrison, scored a string of solid results to finish fourth in the Duqm Stadium Racing series with Vivacar.fr in fifth and Cheminees Poujoulat in sixth.
Reniassance, led by France’s Cedric Pouligny, notched up two top-five finishes to finish ahead of all-woman crew DB Schenker.
“We are here to improve and to learn, so for us it was a very good day,” said Pouligny, whose crew includes Omani sailors Hussein Al Mansoori and Haitham Al Wahaibi who have risen through the ranks at Oman Sail.
“We’re a new team and our sailors are not massively experienced, especially on the Diam 24. I’m still learning myself. We had some good starts, we were in contention with the pack and in the two last races we were almost mid fleet. It’s a happy day for us.”
On Thursday the second of five tactical coastal raids will take place as the fleet races 30 miles along the coastline starting from Duqm, an area decreed a Special Economic Zone with plans to turn it into a major regional hub for maritime transportation and logistics as well as a tourist destination.
Following the Duqm coastal raid, EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour will take in some of Oman’s most beautiful coastal destinations including Masirah Island, Ras Al Hadd, Sur and Bandar Al Rowdha before concluding in Mutrah on February 17.
Results of Duqm Stadium Racing: