Manama: The first leg of the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia–The Tour was completed in glorious sunshine with crew fighting out a sprint finish due to light winds off the coast of Qatar and throughout the 100 mile first leg from Bahrain.
Leading home the world-class crew by a distance of 250m to establish an early lead was Team BAE Systems (Oman), skippered by world-renowned Cedric Pouligny.
Completing the top three positions, with only a boat length between them were EFG Bank (Monaco) skippered by Sidney Gavignet in second and Team Messe Frankfurt led by Marcel Herrera in third.
"Firstly congratulations to Team BAE Systems and skipper Cedric Pouligny who made the best use of the conditions and his experience of having completed Sailing Arabia–The Tour in the two previous editions. Obviously to have no wind is not ideal but at least the teams will be fresh for tomorrow's in-port sailing off Qatar. It was a sprint finish in the end but everyone knows this is only the start and there is a lot of competitive sailing and miles to race over the next 14 days, said Issa Al Ismaili, director of events."
Speaking after the opening leg, Cedric Pouligny said: "After waiting all night with so little wind it was tight out there and felt more like an inshore race by the time we got started. There was a little positioning but it was mostly straight-line sailing. We won after getting a good start and it's always a pleasure to win the opening leg. Tomorrow is a new day and the in-port sailing so close to the harbour on Qatar's National Sport Day should be fun."
In the early part of the shortened race pre-race favourites, Bertrand Pacé skipper of Team AISM, the 2011 winner and former America's Cup helmsman, got off to the best start but as the boats continued down the race course it was Pacé's French compatriot Cedric Pouligny on Team BAE Systems who had just pulled into the lead and held on until the finish in Qatar, ahead of French compatriot Sidney Gavignet's team on EFG Bank (Monaco).
British skipper Dee Caffari of the all-female crew on Al Thuraya Bank Muscat said: "It's painful, but we've had a good sail at the end. The race director did well getting a race in. It was sheet glass the whole way and we waited four hours hanging around for daylight to see if we would race in a sea of glass. But eventually the wind came."
Qatar is the first of seven stopover ports along the UAE coastline to Abu Dhabi, Dubai (new to the course this year) and Ras Al Khaimah before passing through the Strait of Hormuz and on to Oman, visiting Dibba, Mussanah and the finish in Muscat.