Muscat: Almouj is new to EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour (SATT) but an experienced crew, packed with spirit and talent, is hungry for success with plans to spring a few surprises. The Omani-French crew is skippered by French navigator Nico Lunven who has Volvo Ocean Race, Tour de France a Voile, Figaro and RORC miles under his belt.
He also knows how it feels to win the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour having been navigator on board Sidney Gavignet’s triumphant EFG Bank Monaco in 2015.
To add to Almouj’s pedigree, Lunven has seasoned campaigner Gilles Favennec, a member of Oman Sail’s MOD 70 and M34 crew, on board as co-skipper.
“This team was put together by me and Gilles and we decided to try to build it to be happy working together during this month,” explained Lunven.
The crew comprises two Omani sailors Abdulaziz Al Obidani, veteran of four Sailing Arabia – The Tours, and Haitham Al Wahaibi as well as three other French sailors Christian Ponthieu, Gregory Gendron and Thomas Rouxel, all offshore specialists.
With the changes to Tour de France a la Voile, EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour was the obvious choice for the crew looking to keep up their racing and training during the winter months when the inclement weather across Europe prevents a full programme.
“In Europe at this time, there is nothing like this. We have done a lot of Tour de France a la Voile but now there is only this race if we want to do high level competitive offshore sailing,” said Favennec.
Busy schedules have prevented any intensive training so the crew have gathered for the first time in Dubai where the first inshore race starts on February 15 before the fleet of identical Farr 30 boats set off on the first leg to Abu Dhabi. They are big fans of this year’s new route with the second upwind leg to Doha and the marathon third leg to Khasab offering them a chance to shine.
This is where they hope to rack up the points and are serious contenders for a podium place with ambitions to dislodge favourites EFG Bank Monaco from the top spot.
“We would like play for the first place,” said Lunven. “We are especially looking forward to competing against Sidney Gavignet's team EFG Bank Monaco.”
The 2016 EFG Sailing Arabia – the Tour, which is supported by mobile satellite communications company, Al Thuraya, is the sixth edition of the race which combines long offshore legs with high action racing ‘around the cans’ in harbours along the 780 nms course. Oman Sail first launched the race in 2011 and since then, it has grown into the jewel in the crown of Middle East sailing, as the Gulf region’s leading offshore event.
Earlier this year, Team EFG Bank Monaco, Team Mangold, Dutch team Delft Challenge, Bienne Voile of Switzerland, Averda, Zain Kuwait, the all-female Oman Airport-Al Thuraya team and Renaissance Services 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 after which the fleet heads off on a tricky marathon second leg to Doha, then the most demanding leg of them all, the 200 nms passage from Doha to Khasab, Oman's northernmost Governorate which will be a test of skill and patience.
From Khasab, they will race round the Musandam Peninsula and down the coast of Oman to Sohar, before the final leg to Al Mouj in Muscat.
Team: Gilles Favennec, Nico Lunven, Haitham Al Wahaibi, Abdullaziz Al Obidani, Christian Ponthieu, Thomas Rouxel and Gregory Gendron.