Bienne Voile, the Farr 30 named after the crew’s home town in Switzerland, return to the Middle East in 2017 for their third attempt on the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour title, hoping that the knowledge built up from negotiating 1,500 miles of tricky currents and almost 20 in port races might this time work to trump the opposition.
An amateur team of talented recreational sailors put together by skipper Lorenz Mueller, Bienne Voile will once again feature a wide age range from teenager to sexagenarian and an even wider range of professions including a physicist, architect and physiotherapist.
Experience levels too will vary but they boast 15 Tour de France a la Voiles and a few Fastnet Race caps between them and one crewmember Tobias Etter competed at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 in the 470 class.
But their expertise is rooted mainly in dinghy racing since most of their sailing in Bienne takes place on a lake at Neuchatel.
“We have some very good dinghy sailors on board and they will be at home with the in-port races but the longer offshore legs are probably better suited to the French who have much more experience of long distance sailing,” said Mueller who steered Bienne Voile to seventh place last year with their two best results posted in the legs from Sohar to Muscat and from Abu Dhabi to Doha where they finished fourth.
“There are many things we like about this race – especially that it is one design with all the sails provided so all the equipment is the same and success comes down to sailing skills and tactical calls.
“Also, there are no other events that combine offshore and inshore challenges and that is something we are always looking for because you get to do a bit of everything. It makes it a very attractive event.
The Gulf region is also an attraction to the Bienne Voile team. “It is a wonderful place – the Oman coast especially is beautiful. Going into the Straits of Hormuz is one of the biggest appeals of the race. The wind is changing all the time and there is a lot of current which means there are important choices to make and we like that. We are looking forward to the challenge and will be aiming to go one better than last year.”
EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is the only annual race of its type, with a mix of long offshore legs and intense in port racing, in the world and since it was first established in 2011, has become the most prestigious race in the Middle East with a reach and appeal that extends with each edition, among both recreational and professional sailors.
The teams race in identical Farr 30 boats and are in competition for around two weeks, completing more than 700 racing miles and stopping off at five different ports, which showcase the Gulf region to new sailors and to fans who follow the action online or via television images around the world.
In 2017, competition starts in Muscat, Oman, with the first in-port races before the fleet heads north to Sohar and around the tip of the Musandam Peninsula to Khasab. Competitors must tackle the challenges posed by the congested Straits of Hormuz before racing to Abu Dhabi and then on to Doha for the second round of in-port races. Then follows the longest leg to Dubai and a final opportunity to notch up points in the last in-port races before the winner emerges.
The line-up for 2017 is to be announced in a series of press releases over the coming weeks – the field already includes new Italian team, Adelasia di Torres and has never been more open.
by Oman Sail