Muscat: Reigning EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour champion Sidney Gavignet on Friday led his EFG Bank Monaco crew to their first offshore win with victory in the sprint from Abu Dhabi to Doha.
Gavignet's team capitalised on a strong performance in the Abu Dhabi In-Port Race series to take the top spot in the testing 160nm leg after 26 hours at sea.
The stage was the second of five that make up the 730-mile adventure around the Arabian Gulf (15-29 February).And although it's still early days the French offshore sailing sensation is making strides towards a third consecutive EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour title.
EFG Bank Monaco edged Team Averda, Marcel Herrera's talented Plymouth University crew, off the top of the tour leaderboard following the Abu Dhabi In-Port Race series.
German-born Herrera, twice a runner-up to Gavignet in previous editions of EFG SATT, won the opening Dubai In-Port Race series last Monday and the leg from Dubai to Abu Dhabi to take an early overall lead.
But a flawless race from incumbent champions EFG Bank Monaco saw them lead out of Abu Dhabi and maintain their advantage over Team Averda the entire length of the leg.
Renaissance Services, skippered by Gavignet's Omani protégé Fahad Al Hasni, completed the leg 2 podium, their best result of the tour so far.
Dee Caffari's Oman Airports-Al Thuraya Women’s Team finished eighth.
Stunning conditions of flat seas and winds of around 10 knots saw the nine international crews cross the Gulf faster than expected.
However, when the wind vanished 15nm from the finish line, race director Gilles Chiorri decided to end the stage early.
The results were therefore decided by the order the fleet were in when they passed the final gate of the leg, 35nm from the finish line.
“It feels really good to get to the dock after a long leg, especially given the great job we did,” Gavignet said.“I'm very happy – the team did brilliantly, especially our navigator Fabien Delahaye.
There were a lot of obstacles on this leg but the most vital part was getting the wind shifts right, and he got it 100 per cent right.
“The racing was tight and it was only right at the end that we really pulled away.”
Herrera insisted that despite losing points to Gavignet's team his young crew were still aiming for the top spot.
“It was a really interesting leg and it was really tight for the top three positions,” he said.“The competition is really tough but we're still in contention.”
The sailors now have a day to rest and recharge before they take to the water for the third round of inshore racing, the Doha In-Port Race Series, on Sunday.
On Monday the fleet will depart Doha for Khasab on Oman's Musandam peninsula – at 280nm it is the longest and toughest leg of the 2016 EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour, and will take the crews almost two days to complete.