Sailing: Oman Sail Diam 24 team finish fifth in Grand Prix Ecole Navale
May 30, 2017 | 3:34 PM
by Times News Service
Oman Sail Diam 24 team in action. Photo - Supplied

Muscat: In their final competitive outing before the classic Tour de France a la Voile, Oman Sail’s leading Diam 24 race squad posted a string of strong results to place fifth at the Grand Prix Ecole Navale, in France.

The Thierry Douillard-skippered Team Oman Sail entry won two races and took three other podium spots in the 11-race regatta on France’s rugged west coast.

The team have not finished out of the top-five at any regatta this season and will go into the high-profile Tour de France a la Voile confident they can match the best in the highly competitive fleet of super-fast trimarans.

“We are happy with the result and can now look forward to the Tour de France a la Voile, the ultimate goal of our season, with confidence,” said experienced Omani crew member Ali Al Balushi.

The Diam 24 crew had looked on course for a top-three finish earlier in the regatta before incurring a maximum points penalty for a false-start – a common occurrence as competitors jostle for position on a crowded starting line.

In preparation for the Tour de France a la Voile rules, no race results could be discarded, meaning all points counted towards the final regatta result.

“It was hard to come back from the black flag penalty as we had only been one point behind the leader at the end of the first day,” said Douillard.

“But it was a good lesson and a reminder for us – it was better for it to happen now than at the Tour de France.”

Al Balushi was racing with his fellow Oman Sail teammate Abdulhaman Al Mashari, as well as Douillard’s other regular crew of British helm Stevie Morrison and Frenchman Mathieu Richard on navigation and tactics.

Meanwhile, the Diam 24 development team of talented Omani sailors Raad Al Hadi and Haitham Al Wuhaibi earned the praise of stand-in skipper Pierre Le Clainche as they broke into the top-20 for the first time this season to finish in 18th place overall.

“Raad and Haitham are both very, very good sailors with huge potential,” said Le Clainche, who stood in for regular skipper Cedric Pouligny. “They are both physical and really smart, always asking the right questions – their progress is really, really good.”

The result was all the more impressive as Al Hadi and Al Wuhaibi had not raced on the Diam 24 together before, having been combined with Le Clainche to meet the crew weight regulations.

In the ultra-competitive 48-strong J80 fleet, the all-Omani team led by the Sultanate’s leading female sailor Ibtisam Al Salmi showed impressive speed and smart tactics at the starts and on the opening upwind legs, and were often among the front runners at the first mark.

Al Salmi was racing with Marwa Al Khaifi and Tamadher Al Balushi, both sailing instructors with Oman Sail and graduates of the pioneering Oman Sail Women’s Sailing Programme. They were joined by Hajir Al Amrani and Diam 24 squad regulars, Yasser Al Rhabi and Akram Al Wuhaibi.

A misunderstanding involving two mark rounding rule infringements unfortunately saw the team take on penalty points which dropped them down to 37th overall in their six-race regatta.

Next up for the lead Diam 24 squad is a training camp ahead of the Tour de France a la Voile which starts on July 7, while the development team heads for the Raid de Quiberon event in early June. The J80 squad is switching boats to the SB20 ahead of the class’ world championships in Cowes, UK.

Team 1 crew members (Diam 24): 1. Thierry Douillard, 2. Stevie Morrison, 3. Abdulrahman Al Mashari, 4. Ali Al Balushi, 5. Mathieu Richard.

Team 2 crew members (Diam 24): 1. Pierre Le Clainche, 2. Raad Al Hadi, 3. Haitham Al Wuhaibi.

Team 3 crew members (J80): 1. Ibtisam Al Salmi, 2. Marwa Al Khaifi, 3. Hajir Al Amrani, 4. Tamadher Al Balushi, 5. Yasser Al Rahbi, 6. Akram Al Wuhaibi.

Subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to know all the latest news