Muscat: A forecast for brisk winds further down the course has raised levels of anticipation for the crew on Oman’s flagship MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail as they crossed the start line of the Volvo Round Ireland Race on Sunday
Their race against the clock last year, which led to them knocking four hours off the 22-year-old Round Ireland record, looks set to be replayed over the next couple of days.
But it is the prospect of competing against the two other MOD70s Phaedo 3 and Concise 10 — and winning — that is spurring on French skipper Sidney Gavignet and his team, which includes Oman’s three leading offshore sailors Fahad Al Hasni, Yasir Al Rahbi and Sami Al Shukaili.
“The record would be the icing on the cake but we are up against two other really good boats who have been sailing really well so we will have to have a great race,” said Damian Foxall, Ireland’s foremost offshore sailor who, remarkably is making his debut in the Round Ireland race.
“It would be fun to break our record but not so much fun if someone else breaks it. I am very excited to finally be doing this race because this is my home yet this is a new challenge.”
“We have some great conditions. A light upwind start then reaching round Cork and Kerry then some heavy stuff down the west coast which could give us a record breaking time if everything goes well.”
This is the first time multihulls have raced in the Volvo Round Ireland Race and followers are in for a real treat as they watch the three 70 foot multi one design speed machines hurtle round the Emerald Isle leading a fleet that is bigger than ever before in the race’s 36-year history.
The race, organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Wicklow Sailing Club, started in Wicklow Bay with simple instructions to navigators for the 704nm course, including Musandam-Oman Sail’s French navigator Jean-Luc Nelias: leave Ireland and all its islands excluding Rockall to starboard.
But with the strong currents, rocks and sandbanks to add to the mix, the route poses a series of technical challenges and Musandam-Oman Sail will have to be on top form to come out ahead and set a new record, which will require them to cross the finish line within one day, 16 hours, 51 minutes and 57 seconds.
“We will be taking it very seriously,” said Fahad Al Hasni.
“There is a great team spirit on board and of course we hold the record so if we can achieve our aim to sail well and not make any mistakes, we will be very happy. It should be a very close contest.”
The 65-strong fleet crossed the start line at 1300 local time this afternoon and if the weather performs as forecast throughout the course, the prediction is for a new Round Ireland record.