EFG Sailing Arabia – Sidney Gavignet’s EFG Bank extends overall lead
EFG Sailing Arabia 2015 – The Tour that began in Muscat, Oman on 15 February, is now at the halfway stage in Dubai at the end of Leg 3 and there is a battle royal at the front of the fleet between the defending champion, EFG Bank (Monaco), the Dutch University team on TU Delft and the Plymouth University team on Team Averda.
With three legs to go on this marathon offshore stage race, Sidney Gavignet’s mixed Omani and European team on EFG Bank (Monaco), winners of the latest leg from Ras Al Khaimah to Dubai, have now extended their overall Tour lead with a scoreline that includes three first places.
We have strong competition, which means we can take nothing for granted,’ said skipper Gavignet, adding: ‘The advantage we have perhaps is our previous experience. A couple of crew changes on the leg to Dubai has meant having to adapt but as the result shows, it is going well.
The strong international presence with a total of 21 nations represented including France, UK, Switzerland, China, New Zealand, Ireland, Kuwait, Oman and the Netherlands, gives a good indication that the Tour is fast becoming a favourite for teams seeking high profile sporting events around the world. At 760nm this six-leg race offers a 14-day mix of demanding offshore sailing and intense inport racing.
EFG Bank crewman and Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) winner Damian Foxall from Ireland says he sees the event as an ideal training platform for VOR teams: ‘The format is a bit like a mini Volvo Ocean Race so you need to pace yourself. I think it compliments the VOR really well.’
Kit Cheng fresh from the last leg of the VOR and who is racing with GAC Pindar powered by Dongfeng Race Team for SATT added: It has given me a good chance to progress my navigation skills. It is a really good foundation for VOR racing because the Farr 30 compared to the VO65 is basically just a smaller one-design version.
Team Averda, the young student team from Plymouth, who finished second last year, are back once again and are currently lying second at the half way stage.
Skipper, Marcel Herrera, who works at Sutton Harbour Marina, Plymouth, has competed in all five events with support from Plymouth University: As a team, we’ve come to know and race each other for the last six years – we train constantly in Plymouth. We have a passion for challenging offshore events like this, so EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is the perfect option.
Wouter Sonnema and his Dutch amateur student team from the Technical University in Delft – their hometown – are another seasoned crew challenging for the lead, on Delft Challenge.
They are currently just .75pts behind the Brits on Averda having won the challenging 172nm Leg 2 round the Musandam Peninsula and are eager for the start of the next leg from Dubai to Abu Dhabi today.
Sonnema said: It is great to race against the professional teams, and beat them, because it builds our confidence. After the Tour de France à la Voile changed class and became too expensive for us we found out about this event. As an amateur team we have the opportunity to sail against world class teams in a fantastic part of the world.
This 14-day captivating offshore adventure around the spectacular Arabian Gulf peninsular spans four countries and seven venues from Muscat to Manama. The event aims to rekindle the region’s shared maritime heritage, something that is successfully underway in the Sultanate of Oman through the national initiative Oman Sail, and gives local homegrown sailors a chance to progress as they pit themselves against international professionals.
There are three remaining legs of the Tour including a 60nm sprint to Abu Dhabi, which starts today, and a 159nm leg from Abu Dhabi to Doha, Qatar. The final 127nm sprint to the finish line in Bahrain starts on 27 February.