Sailing: EFG Bank Monaco close in on Beijaflore
February 10, 2018 | 8:25 PM
by Times News Service
EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour brought its action-packed racing to Masirah Island for the first time. Photo - Supplied

Muscat: EFG Bank Monaco proved themselves masters of inshore and offshore racing on Saturday as EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour (SATT) brought its action-packed racing to Masirah Island for the first time.

The four-time EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour winners and current champions dominated the leaderboard in a bumper day of racing that included a coastal raid plus two stadium races.

Masirah, Oman’s largest island, is the third venue to host EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour’s exciting racing following the opening round in Salalah and the second stage in Duqm.

Now in its eighth year, EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour has had a major revamp for 2018 that has seen a shift to Diam 24 multihull boats and racing take the form of five long coastal races of up to 40 miles and five series of short in-port races.

French outfit Beijaflore have been the form team so far in the 14-day regatta but EFG Bank Monaco hit back on Saturday with wins in the coastal raid and both stadium races.

Led by long-serving Oman Sail racer Thierry Doulliard and including former match racing world champion Mathieu Richard and Omani talent Ali Al Balushi, EFG Bank Monaco have closed the gap on the overall leaderboard to just six points going into Sunday’s Masirah Stadium Racing series.

Beijaflore pushed their rivals hard in the 20-mile coastal raid, which took the eight-strong fleet up and down Masirah’s coastline, but had to settle for second.

A fourth and a third in the stadium races sees Beijaflore maintain their overall lead – but the momentum is with EFG Bank Monaco with up to five stadium races planned for tomorrow.

“It was a very positive day for us,” said Al Balushi, one of the stars of Oman Sail’s programme to reignite Oman’s maritime heritage. “We sailed really well – the communication was good, and we were fast upwind and downwind.

“It’s nice to see Beijaflore behind us but it’s still a bit early to think about the end result. We are not focused on it now. We are just concerned with sailing fast, like we did today. Our results today will be good for our helmsman Mathieu – he had a great day and will be very confident going into tomorrow’s races. Thierry and myself will be on it too. Tomorrow is another day, and we’re looking forward to it.”

British-flagged Averda returned to the dock content with strong day on the water, finishing fourth in the coastal raid before scoring two seconds in the stadium races.

It’s an impressive performance from the team, fronted by two-time Olympian Stevie Morrison and including Omani Abdulrahman Al Mashari, given that tactician Nic Asher only has three days of Diam 24 sailing under his belt having joined them in Duqm.

“The coastal race was good and bad for us,” said Asher, a former member of the British Sailing Team. “We had a great start but then we got a little greedy, made a mistake and let a few boats pass us. We then did a really good job of catching them back up and overtaking them, only to get a little bit greedy again on the penultimate leg. It was a bit annoying to finish fourth but we felt we were going well.

“A bit more wind for the stadium races was nice and we got two seconds. It was a shame to let EFG Bank Monaco win both races, but we were happy with our day. It’s only my third day sailing these boats but all in all we had a good day, and that gives the team confidence going into tomorrow.”

Results of Masirah Coastal Raid:

1. EFG Bank (Thierry Douillard) – 1 pts

2. Beijaflore (Valentin Bellet) – 2 pts

3. Poujoulat (Bernard Stamm) – 3 pts

4. Averda (Stevie Morrison) – 4 pts

5. (Matthieu Souben) – 5 pts

6. Lorina Golfe du Morbihan (Solune Robert) – 6 pts

7. Renaissance (Cedric Pouligny) – 7 pts

8. DB Schenker (Elodie Mettraux) – 8 pts

Results of Masirah Stadium Racing (two races of day 1):

1. EFG Bank (Thierry Douillard) – 0.50 pts

2. Averda (Stevie Morrison) – 1 pts

3. Beijaflore (Valentin Bellet) – 1.50 pts

4. Lorina Golfe du Morbihan (Solune Robert)– 2 pts

5. Poujoulat (Bernard Stamm) – 2.50 pts

6. (Matthieu Souben) – 3 pts

7. Renaissance (Cedric Pouligny) – 3.50 pts

8. DB Schenker (Elodie Mettraux) – 4 pts

Overall standings:

1. Beijaflore (Valentin Bellet) – 7 pts

2. EFG Bank (Thierry Douillard) – 13 pts

3. Averda (Stevie Morrison) – 17 pts

4. Lorina Golfe du Morbihan (Solune Robert) – 20 pts

5. Poujoulat (Bernard Stamm) – 24 pts

6. (Matthieu Souben) – 24 pts

7. Renaissance (Cedric Pouligny) – 36 pts

8. DB Schenker (Elodie Mettraux) – 39 pts

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