Muscat: The sailing crew of Swiss entry Bienne Voile includes a physicist, mathematician, physiotherapist, architect and a sailing ace who happens to be 17 years old and still at school. Strictly amateur but with a flair for inshore racing and high hopes of piling up points in port at EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2016 (SATT), the longest off shore race in the GCC region organised by Oman Sail.
Competing for the second time, the team of 12 have come from a variety of sailing backgrounds with skills spread across Olympic and match racing classes with a glittering collection of national championship and Tour de France a Voile medals alongside badges from most of the classic races around the globe.
Among them is Tobias Etter who competed at the Beijing 2008 Olympics for Switzerland in the 470 class and veteran Thierry Bosshart, a member of the Bienne Voile crew in 2015 and the highly rated Flurina Schneider, who is just 17 years old and one of the four talented women who have been selected for EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour.
There is a lot of experience in the crew, says skipper Lorenz Muller, with 15 Tour de France a Voile caps between them and as much ambition as any of the professional teams. They have spent months training and preparing on the lake at Neuchatel which should put them in contention for honours at all three in-port races at Dubai. Abu Dhabi and Doha.
“We have a lot of experience in freshwater sailing and a good combination of skills so we think our main strength will be in tactics and positioning in the short races,” explained Muller.
“We should be able to win some points in the port races and although we think speed might be an issue in the offshore legs we will try to improve our results compared to last year.
“EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is now the only race with inshore and offshore races where everyone competes in one design boats. For us it replaces the former Tour de France a Voile and although we are unlikely to gain a podium place overall, because we are an amateur team competing against professionals, we are all very ambitious.”
Last year, Bienne Voile came seventh despite threatening to upset the form guide in the early stages against some of the professional crews.
“We started well in 2015 but lost places on the last couple of legs due to some tactical errors and problems with our navigation system which wasn’t working properly,” said Muller.
“This time the long legs will be certainly main challenges for the endurance of the sailors and the performance of the navigator but we are looking forward to them.”
“All the legs will be tricky – the wind tends to be shifty in the Straits of Hormuz and of course the new long leg from Doha to Khasab could be a test of stamina.
“Our main aim is to achieve an enriching sailing experience and hopefully some good results. We anticipate a challenging and very interesting sail racing series and are looking forward to meeting all the friendly people within the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour organisation and among the competitors.”