Paris: Oman Sail’s “Diam 24” crew lead by French sailor Thierry Douillard emerged victorious in the 2017 season curtain-raiser. Douillard’s expert crew snatched the win in the final race of the Grand Prix Atlantique in Pornichet, western France, the opening event of the busy European summer season.
It is the perfect start for the team as they kickstart their campaign for glory in the Tour de France a la Voile, the highlight of the season. The Oman Sail team shot out of the blocks winning the opening race of the three-day event and finishing day one in second place, sending a clear message to their rivals including 2016 Tour de France a la Voile winners Lorina Limonade.
A tricky second day saw the crew - featuring Douillard as skipper plus ex-Olympic sailor Stevie Morrison and former match racing world champion Mathieu Richard alongside Oman Sail talents Ali Al Balushi and Abdul Rahman Al Ma’ashri — slip to joint third as the fleet did battle in a mix of stadium and coastal races. A win in the opening race of the final day saw them claw back vital points on overall leader and arch rival Lorina Limonade, which they followed up with a solid fourth place in the penultimate race.
As the final showdown got underway, Lorina Limonade were judged to have been over the start line within a minute of the gun firing, prompting automatic disqualification for the pre-event favourites.
Another fourth-place finish was enough for Douillard and the Oman Sail team to secure the regatta win by two points and claim their first silverware of the year.
“What a great event,” skipper Douillard said. “It is always good to win an event but it’s even better to win the first one of the season.
“It means that all the work and training we did over the winter really paid off. It also means we’re up there with the best teams and it’s a good reminder to them that we’re here to get good results.
“Our boat handling and crew work was great, and Ali and Abdul Rahman were really impressive. The cohesion between Stevie, Matt and I was great too”. Al Balushi, who undertook sail trimming duties, added: “We couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season. We have shown we can win - now we need to carry that success on into the next event”.
Oman Sail’s second “Diam 24” crew, led by French offshore sailor Cedric Pouligny, finished in 23rd place. The development squad, featuring Omani sailors Yasser
Al Rhabi, Raad Al Hadi, Akram Al Wahaibi and Haitham Al Wahaibi, will compete in all the events in the run-up to the Tour de France a la Voile.
“Cedric and his boys had a tough time but the level in the fleet is very high and they improved a lot,” Douillard added. “They will just get better and better throughout the season”.
Both crews will now turn their attentions to the next test - the five-day Spi Ouest France regatta from April 13 to 17.