Muscat: Oman Airports by Oman Sail is upbeat about preparations for the 2016 Tour de France a la Voile (TDFV) starting in just one month after some valuable training and Diam 24 racing at the Normandy Cup in France last week.
In the final races of a carefully planned season of events, which has included Spi Ouest France in la Trinite sur Mer at the end of March, Grand Prix Atlantique and GP Guyader in April and finally GP Ecole Navale in May, Oman Sail’s Diam 24 crew finished seventh in a field of 17 teams, many of whom will be heading to Dunkirk for the start of the Tour de France a la Voile on July 8.
They were missing their co-skipper Thierry Douillard so a top 10 result was a bonus, said Ali Al Balushi, one of two Omanis who will be bidding for honours on Oman Airports by Oman Sail in the three week-long event.
“We put in some good performances across the four days despite light winds and the tricky conditions in Le Havre so we feel we are heading in the right direction in the run up to the TDFV,” he said.
“I think we could finish in the top 5 but this project is more about evolving a team and making progress and we have made a lot of progress since we started in the Diam 24s in March.
“We know who we will be up against for the Tour de France a Voile because we have been racing against them for a couple of months now and although there is still a long way to go, we are enjoying the boat and coming together well as a team.”
For Normandy, the Oman Airports by Oman Sail team comprised Ali Al Balushi and fellow Omani Abdulhaman Al Mashari as well as Pierre Leboucher and Stevie Morrison who will continue training and racing, with Douillard back in action next week in Les Sables d’Olonnes and Quiberon.
Also in action at the Normandy Cup was the all-female crew on Oman Sail’s J80, skippered by Dee Caffari and the all-Omani male crew, led by Fahad Al Hasni, who were closely competing for honours in the 25 strong J80 field. It proved a close run but after nine races over four days, it was Al Hasni’s crew who came out on top, finishing in 10th place compared to 13th for the girls.
Normandy Week marks the end of the 2016 European season for Oman Sail’s J80 women’s crew of Caffari, Marwa Al Khaifi, Tamadher Al Balushi, Annemieke Bes from the Netherlands and Ibtisam Al Salmi, one of the Middle East’s first professional female sailors.
But Fahad Al Hasni, together with his J80 teammates Sami Al Shukaili, Yasser al Rahabi and Raad al Hadi will head to the UK shortly to begin their preparations for the Round Ireland Race and other events in the European summer as members of Sidney Gavignet’s MOD70 crew on Musandam-Oman Sail.