Dubai: EFG Bank (Monaco) won a dramatic first leg of EFG Sailing Arabia The Tour 2014 after a close 100-mile race from Bahrain to Doha, Qatar.
With Frenchman Sidney Gavignet at the helm, the team, which includes two Omani sailors, crossed the finish line in Doha just 25 seconds ahead of Messe Frankfurt Sailing Team, who led the six-strong fleet for most of the breezy run.
The Tour’s arrival to Qatar coincided with Qatar’s national sports day celebrations. The run from Manama to Doha was the first leg of the 15-day Sailing Arabia Tour — the region’s only long-distance offshore sailing endurance race, which will also head to the UAE and Oman.
The results of the top two were impressive considering both ran aground sailing close to the shore when trying to keep out the 3 knots of tidal stream. EFG Bank (Monaco) also suffered jib failure on the start line and were last to start.
Marcel Herrera, skipper of second-placed Messe Frankfurt, said it was a tough but rewarding opening leg. “I think it was Sidney’s [Gavignet] experience that was the winning factor. He would have been in lots of situations like this before and he knew how to deal with it. Our experience was a bit lacking so he managed to turn that into a positive for him and show us how to do it properly.”
Team Delft Challenge third
In third place was Team Delft Challenge, skippered by Kay Heemskerk. “We had a good start and it was close racing almost to the end. The most important lesson we learnt was to stay focused all the time. That is something we’ll take with us in the next race,” Heemskerk said.
Katie Pettibone, the American skipper of Al Thuraya Bank Muscat, who finished fourth, said: “It was epic sailing and our approach to Doha was truly amazing as always. It was actually really enjoyable to sail in the daylight for a change because the last two years we have arrived in the dark.”
The crews were due to take part in an in-shore sailing race in Doha on Tuesday.
The 760-nautical mile Sailing Arabia course spans four countries, with eight of the region’s premier marinas playing host as stopover venues during the seven legs.