The all-new 2018 EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour (3-17 February) has attracted a high-class international fleet of Diam 24 racers eager to test themselves against the competition and the challenges of the course along Oman’s dramatic coastline.
Though the revised route – as well as the switch to the high-speed Diam trimaran – was only revealed in October last year, eight top teams have signed-up for the Gulf region’s premier yacht racing event.
The international fleet offers a high-powered mix of Sailing Arabia veterans combined with newcomers bringing a wealth of Diam experience, much of it gained on the legendary Tour de France à la Voile which also uses the modern one-design multihull.
Among the leading contenders are Daniel Souben, a former winner of both EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour and the Tour de France à la Voile, who will be managing and coaching the Vivacar team which will have the experienced hands of his multihull-racing son Matthieu on the helm.
“EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2018 is looking set to be a great competition which will also provide us with perfect preparation for the French circuit and the Tour de France later in the year,” he said.
“We are looking forward to some really good competition against some really good teams,” said Souben. “Everything about the Sailing Arabia format in 2018 means that we will get good racing and good experience.”
Another French team out to make its mark on the new-look EFG Sailing Arabia event is Beijaflore, fresh from a highly competitive third-place finish on last year’s Tour de France a la Voile. Valentin Bellet, a former F18 European and Hobie 16 world youth champion, will be leading a young five-strong squad that will rotate as the demanding 14-day event unfolds.
“I feel lucky to be skipper of this particularly brilliant group,” said Bellet. “On paper we have everything to make it work! When we selected the crew, the idea was to bring together people who are complementary, compatible and easy to live with as a group. From the beginning there has been a great state of mind.”
Renowned yachtsman Pierre Mas is project director for the go-getting team who are ready to take full advantage of Oman’s near-idyllic sailing conditions and aim to make a winning start to the new season.
They will face stiff competition along the way however. Swiss racing legend Bernard Stamm will lead his Poujoulat team, while his compatriot Elodie-Jane Mettraux will skipper the all-female DB Schenker entry.
Further French opposition will come from the Lorina Youth team led by Solune Robert, and Cedric Pouligny’s Renaissance squad.
Then there are the two hometown teams – defending EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour champion Thierry Douillard skippering EFG Bank Monaco and British Olympic sailor Stevie Morrison helming Averda, with both boats featuring Omani crewmembers as part of Oman Sail’s ongoing development programme.
For Morrison the event will have added spice as he will now be racing against Douillard, his teammate on the last two French tours.
“For EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour we have got to get as much exposure for our team that will race later in the year in France as we can, so we have split our Tour de France a la Voile squad in two effectively,” he said.
“Being a rival for the Tour with Thierry will be good as it will push all of us as a team to work harder. I know we will enjoy competing against each other as we have that team dynamic and mutual respect. There will be plenty of friendly rivalry!”
EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour will feature eight venues, three offshore legs, three coastal raids, and four in-port races, with the Diam 24 race yachts disassembled and transported between venues on some occasions.
In addition to delivering exciting and challenging racing, the all-new race course will take the fleet to some of the coastal gems of Oman including Salalah, Duqm, Barr Al Hikman, Masirah, Ras Al Hadd, Sur and Bandar Al Khiran.
by Oman Sail