Oman Sail’s celebrity ‘express’ crew lived up to their name when their MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail swept across the finish line at Cowes in first place to take line honours in the 2015 Artemis Challenge.
The brakes were definitely off when Sidney Gavignet’s record-breaking crew, turbo charged for the day by French rugby legend Serge Betsen and polar explorer Ben Saunders hurtled across the finish line at a remarkable 35 knots.
They had spent three hours and 32 minutes on the water which was more than an hour outside the 2012 multihull record set by Foncia but two minutes faster than Ned Collier-Wakefield’s trimaran Concise 10 and five minutes ahead of old rivals Prince de Bretagne who beat them across the line in 2014.
From a wet start, when the 16 strong Artemis Challenge fleet set off on the 50 nautical mile course around the Isle of Wight in torrential rain, the conditions proved testing with winds reaching around 16 knots and seas at the half way point around St Catherine’s Point whipped up and uncommonly rough.
But such a test brought sailing skills and strength under the spotlight and Gavignet’s Omani crew of Fahad Al Hasni, Yassir Al Rahbi, Sami Al Shukaili and Abdulrahman rose to the occasion with flying colours, which according to Gavignet was testimony to Oman Sail’s tough development programme.
“We are very happy because this Artemis Challenge fleet is a very competitive one and our team with Ben Saunders and Serge Betsen worked well together so it was a very good result,” said the Musandam-Oman Sail skipper whose duties include mentoring and inspiring young Omani sailors to perform.
“The work we are doing is paying off more and more. We are working and mentoring and they are learning and gelling so we have a good time and perform well together which is what any sporting team aims for. Our plan is to keep growing our performance slowly but surely.
“Sometimes we have felt a bit lonely as a multihull going round the island on our own but we are developing a love affair with British and Irish islands after setting a new Round Britain and Ireland record in 2014 and a new Round Ireland record earlier this year.
“Today we had other MOD70s and an 80 footer to race against which was great. It made it more fun and we are looking forward to racing with them some more.”
Gavignet was not the only one to highlight the impressive teamwork among the Musandam-Oman Sail crew.
Polar explorer Ben Saunders was hugely exhilarated by his MOD70 experience.
“It was an absolutely amazing experience – I have never been that fast on a sailing boat ever before, the crew was amazing, really cool, calm and composed the whole way around, so skilled. They are constantly in motion, always busy on the boat, there was never a quiet easy moment, they were always pushing hard and tweaking or doing something. They were genuinely having fun. Lovely atmosphere on board, it was an incredible experience,” said Saunders who plans to visit Oman next year after discovering how much the Sultanate has to offer for adventurers.
“I think Oman from an adventurers point of view is a real hidden gem, I think it has a lot to offer, amazing scenery, amazing history, amazing culture, the mountains sound fantastic, so I am certainly planning to go soon.”
Serge Betsen was invited to join the Oman Sail crew since he is renowned as an inspirational sportsman but he admitted he was inspired by the teamwork on Musandam-Oman Sail.
“The way Oman Sail and Sidney empower their young sailors to be leaders in sailing is just fantastic and is exactly what I am trying to do with rugby in Cameroon where I have my own charity Serge Betsen Academy,” he explained.
“The idea is to use sport and particularly rugby as a vehicle to make an impact and change the lives of kids so I think for Oman Sail it was a great achievement today.
“I understand that some of the young Omani sailors started sailing only four or five years ago and they are already very talented and really building their experience. It was amazing to see.”
The Artemis Challenge title can now be added to the list of accolades being notched up by Oman Sail’s MOD70 crew but according to Al Hasni, this one was a bit special.
“We are so happy to have won especially with all the other MOD70s to compete against in the race,” he said.
“We didn’t think we had won until we went round the forts near the finish line. You have never won until you cross the finish line so we didn’t take our foot off the pedal until we had done that.”
As well as the 2015 Artemis Challenge crown, Musandam-Oman Sail also won a £2000 charity prize, which is pledged to the Al Hayat Association, a non-profit organisation which was established in Oman in 2011 to raise drug awareness amongst young people.
by Oman Sail