Muscat: Oman Sail has revealed a new adventure for 2017 as the pioneering national initiative takes on a double-handed Class 40 challenge pairing up mentor and long-term skipper of various Oman Sail projects, Frenchman Sidney Gavignet, with his protege and Oman Sail’s most successful offshore sailor, Fahad Al Hasni.
Gavignet and Al Hasni will take on some of the world’s best shorthanded sailors in an ambitious programme that – all going well – will culminate in the Transat Jaques Vabre transatlantic race in November.
The new campaign is the latest stage of the relationship between Al Hasni, one of Oman’s most promising sailors, and Gavignet, his mentor for the past six years.
The duo raced together as part of Oman Sail’s MOD70 trimaran crew on Musandam-Oman Sail, a pairing that saw them set three world records over the course of a few years.
Al Hasni will begin the campaign fresh from leading his Team Renaissance crew to a runner-up spot (just behind Thierry Douillard!) in EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour, a 763-nautical mile race around the Arabian Gulf.
Oman Sail’s Class 40 programme will see them take on the Grand Prix Guyader next month, the Normandy Channel Race in May, Les Sables – Horta in July and the legendary Rolex Fastnet Race in August.
If the training and racing has gone well and the crew development is at a high level, the season will conclude with the Transat Jacques Vabre, a 3,000-mile race from Le Havre in France to Salvador in Brazil in November.
With Oman Sail’s underlying objective of developing Omani sailors front of mind, the pair will be joined on their 40ft race boat by another MOD70 regular, Sami Al Shukaili for deliveries and crewed races.
“The Class 40 is a class with a busy programme and an ultra-competitive fleet - and that’s rare in the offshore sailing world today,” said Gavignet, one of France’s top shorthanded sailors.
“It is the perfect tool to learn and build experience, and to ultimately make good sailors. When you have to do everything yourself it forces you to learn quickly and thoroughly.
“Our goal this year is to learn as much as we can as quickly as we can!”
Al Hasni added: “Both Sami and I are really excited to begin this next phase of our sailing careers. Shorthanded sailing is a new discipline for us but in Sidney we have the best teacher you could ask for. It is a very competitive fleet so our learning curve will be steep!”
The 2017 European season also sees the return of Oman Sail’s Diam 24 campaign for the Tour de France a la Voile led by well-known French sailor and Oman Sail regular, Thierry Douillard.
The unique set-up will see the most promising sailors from Oman Sail’s programme to develop home-grown talent train and race with some of the biggest names in the sport.
Douillard’s Diam 24 crew will include fellow Frenchman and former match racing world champion Mathieu Richard, British former Olympian Stevie Morrison, and Omani sailors Ali Al Balushi and Abdulhaman Al Mashari.
A second crew led by Cedric Pouligny and featuring upcoming Omanis Yasser Al Rahbi, Raad Al Hadi, Akram Al Waibi and Haitham Al Waibi will train alongside Douillard’s team prior to the start of the season.
The first event for the Diam 24 squad will be Le Grand Prix Atlantique in Pornichet, France, from March 31 to April 2.
The season goal is to better their 2016 fifth-place finish in the Tour de France a la Voile, a coastal race taking in nine French cities starting in July.
“It’s going to be a full-on season that will be tighter than last year so we’re going to have to work hard,” Douillard said. “Our ultimate goal is to finish on the podium in the Tour de France a la Voile but we will give everything we have at each event we compete in. That much is for sure!”