After five days of full-on racing in high winds and big seas, Oman Airports by Oman Sail have claimed a top ten position in the prestigious 2016 Tour de France a la Voile (TDFV) with two weeks still to go to work their way up the rankings.
Targeting a top five place on their debut TDFV on the new Diam 24 trimaran, with 23 other teams in contention, the challenging weather conditions have tested the full range of crew skills and stamina, according to co-skippers Stevie Morrison and Thierry Douillard, and given the boats a battering.
“It has been very windy with strong tides and big sea states and most of the boats have suffered some kind of gear failure,” said Morrison who twice represented Britain in the 49er class at the Olympic Games.
“We had a problem with our rudder in the Dieppe inshore series just as we were coming into form – we’d had three second places and a third so that was frustrating but overall we are doing pretty well considering the other teams are very, very strong.”
Oman’s Ali Al Balushi and Abdulhaman Al Mashari have been training hard as members of the Oman Airports by Oman Sail crew since March for the TDFV and have high expectations so losing their rudder was a brief setback.
“We had some good starts and some good tactical moments. We’d been fighting hard and had qualified for the grand final in Dieppe which was our objective,” said Al Balushi, competing in his sixth TDFV.
“But then the rudder came off and our race was over. But the Tour is long and we still have a long way to go. We’ve been training hard for this and being seventh after just two stages is not bad!
“Today is a day off so a bit of chilling out will be nice – last night was a long night of packing up the boat and then driving to the next stage.”
The daily logistical rigours of the event, where the teams have to rig their boats, race then de-rig and move onto the next venue were proving as big a test as the competition on the water, added Morrison.
“We are on the water from 10am to 5pm every day and as soon as racing is over, we have to derig the boats and prepare for the following day. It is tiring but then this is what the event is all about and the team who copes best with the demands on and off the water is the team that will win.
“All the time we are improving and are really enjoying it. Our speeds are more consistent and we are definitely getting better but so is everyone else so we are not expecting it to get any easier. We need to tighten up our game to avoid making any silly mistakes but we will do that.”
The Oman Airports by Oman Sail crew of Morrison, Douillard, Al Balushi, Al Mashari and France’s Pierre Leboucher are rotating across the three-week tour around France’s coast to fill the three spaces up for grabs in each of the nine stages of the race which started on 8 July in Dunkirk and finishes on 31 July in Nice.
Next stop is Roscoff where the fleet will complete a coastal race followed by a day of inshore racing, battling once more with strong tides and shifty winds.
by Oman Sail