Muscat: After a season-long campaign and a gruelling Tour de France a la Voile, which saw 16 days of intense sailing spread over a month, it all came down to the deciding final day and final race for Oman Sail’s Diam 24 team. Having secured their place in the concluding Super Final race for the top eight teams in the highly competitive 29-strong fleet, Oman Sail was tied in fourth place overall with double points on offer in the Nice finale last Saturday.
After a see-saw contest in ideal sailing conditions which saw the team well placed in the early stages, they finished fifth in the race itself and in the Tour overall, matching their result in 2016.
“We missed the podium so we are a bit frustrated for sure,” said skipper Thierry Douillard of their overall Tour performance.
“But to be honest we did not lose the podium in the final race, we lost it when we did not make a couple of the finals earlier in the Tour, but that is all part of the game.
“It is more important to emphasise that the guys worked really hard and well together, and we were always in contention. We had a great time together and a good Tour overall.”
And he added: “The thing now is to plan ahead for next year and to make sure we arrive in Nice in a good position to podium.”
Douillard led the Oman Sail squad which featured experienced Omani sailors Ali Al Balushi and Abdulrahman Al Mashari, British Olympian Stevie Morrison and French race ace Mathieu Richard, the race crew rotating over the nine Acts.
“We knew we had a lot to do in the Super Final and in the early stages we were in a good position,” said Al Balushi. “The racing was very close throughout the whole Tour and came down to the final race. We would of course have liked to finish on the podium but we can be proud of fifth place in such a competitive fleet.”
Al Balushi’s view was endorsed by Oman Sail CEO David Graham.
Speaking immediately after the Nice final he said: “Obviously today was a disappointment from a results point of view, but you put that to one side and look at where we have come from compared to last year – the position may be the same but the competition has got so much higher, and we have taken a big jump forward.
“When you look at the fleet and who we are competing against, there are Olympians and world champions - the people just in front of us have all been to the Olympics – so the competition is really stiff and the way the guys have competed has been admirable.
“I am really pleased and I would go so far to say that this is the campaign of the year for Oman Sail.”
The Tour de France a la Voile started in Dunkirk on July 7, and has seen a high-intensity mix of coastal and inshore stadium racing at nine venues around the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of France and Spain.
Oman Sail had climbed as high as third on the leader-board in the course of the classic event, having shown pre-Tour promise with a win at the inaugural event of the European season, the Grand Prix Atlantique in Pornichet, and then two other strong performances at the Spi Ouest France and Grand Prix Guyader regattas.
The Tour de France a la Voile was ultimately won by the Fondation FDJ team, which sealed victory on the concluding coastal race the day before the Super Final. Tresors de Tahiti finished runner-up with Beijaflore Sailing filling out the podium. An early Tour leader, Team SFS, dropped out of the top three after being black-flagged for an early start in the Super Final to finish fourth, just ahead of Oman Sail.