Muscat: Some of Oman’s best known sailing stars, led by Fahad Al Hasni have grouped together for EFG Sailing Arabia – the Tour (SATT) 2016 to form Team Renaissance with local knowledge of the Arabian Gulf set to be their strongest suit.
Al Hasni, a key member of Oman Sail’s record breaking Musandam-Oman Sail MOD70 crew and Team Renaissance skipper for the second consecutive year, will be joined by Nasser Al Mashari who in December received worldwide acclaim when Extreme 40 crew The Wave, Muscat were crowned 2015 champions of the Extreme Sailing Series.
With Al Hasni’s offshore helming skills and Al Mashari’s renowned agility on the bow, especially on small boats inshore, Team Renaissance is hoping for a string of podium places especially as the remaining crew spots are taken by strong experienced campaigners.
They include Sami Al Shukaily who competes with Al Hasni on Musandam Oman Sail. Both sailors are used to taking their instructions from their mentor Sidney Gavignet but in this race they will be rivals since the French skipper is heading up race favourites EFG Bank Monaco, winners last year and in 2014.
The talented Ali Al Balushi, bowman on Extreme 40 Oman Air in the last Extreme Sailing Series will be adding his weight and expertise along with Abdul Rahman Al Mashri while experienced Guillaume Berenger will navigate.
According to Al Hasni, hopes are high that their fifth place last year can be improved to at least third in this edition.
“I think it is going to be hard because it is a new route with a lot of different challenges which will test us all,” he said.
“The leg from Doha to Khasab in particular will be a test because it is a very long one but Sami and I have done a lot of offshore racing and spent many days and nights at sea so this should not pose too many problems.
“This route is a really good one for long distance sailors. You need a good offshore crew and we have put together a good one so we are looking forward to this race.
“We have done quite a lot of training - inshore and offshore in France and Oman so are well prepared.
“We have done this race before and realise you need to be consistent to be in with a chance of winning. Preferably to come first every time whether it is inshore or offshore but if not, to try and make it onto the podium each time if we can.”
Earlier this year, Team EFG Bank Monaco, Team Mangold, Dutch team Delft Challenge, Bienne Voile of Switzerland, Averda and Zain announced they are going to participate in the 2016 edition of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour.
Kicking off on February 15 in Dubai, the five leg 750 nm challenge offers an opportunity for both professional and amateur racing teams to sustain their training and competition programmes over the winter months and showcase the GCC region as a sailing and sporting destination.
An inshore race in Dubai will be followed by the first leg to Abu Dhabi where two further inshore contests will be staged before the fleets heads off on a tricky marathon second leg to Doha, then the most demanding leg of them all, the 200nms passage from Doha to new destination Khasab, Oman's northernmost Governorate which will be a test of skill and patience.
From Khasab, they will race back out into the Straits of Hormuz, round the Musandam Peninsula and down the coast of Oman to Sohar, the final stopover before the fifth and final leg to Almouj in Muscat, which presents a double points opportunity to seal victory or overhaul the leaderboard.