Muscat: A day into the renowned Rolex Fastnet Race, Oman Sail’s Class 40 team were locked in a close-fought battle near the front of the record-breaking fleet.
Data from trackers on each yacht showed Oman Sail holding sixth place in the 26-strong Class 40 category early on Monday morning as they approached The Lizard peninsula, the southernmost point of mainland Britain.
A fleet of 368 yachts - the largest since the biennial Fastnet Race began in 1925 – started from The Solent on Sunday morning. The classic 605-mile race delivered classic conditions, with an upwind start in 15 to 20 knots and bright sunshine.
The race takes the fleet from England’s south coast to the Fastnet Rock off southern Ireland, then back across the Irish Sea to the finish in Plymouth.
Speaking shortly before the start, Oman Sail’s skipper Sidney Gavignet said: “The weather forecast is saying it will be upwind conditions all the way to the Fastnet, and downwind all the way back from the Fastnet to Plymouth.
“Our goal is to get to the finish in one piece, and enjoy the race and keep learning. It is all about taking one step at a time and progressing.”
And he added: “I almost don’t want to speak about results. For us it is about sailing a clean race and feeling that we have got the maximum from the boat – that would be a good result.”
Gavignet is racing with his regular Class 40 co-skipper Fahad Al Hasni, and they have been joined for the Fastnet Race by the Omani sailor Sami Al Shukaili and Spanish Class 40 specialist Alex Pella. All previously raced together on the MOD 70 Musandam-Oman Sail trimaran.
“Boat speed will be a focus for us, keeping the pace up all the time during the rotations,” said Gavignet. “That is part of my job too to keep the guys going, but they all have very good energy.
“One thing is to take it easy when we need to. It is important. It is a mechanical sport so we need to preserve the mechanics sometimes, and we have to live with what we have. Sometimes you have to be smart.”
Also speaking during pre-Fastnet training, Al Hasni added: “We are making progress with the boat, though we still have progress to make, but we are getting there. It is great to sail with Sami again and having Alex’s feedback on the Class 40 will be really good as well.”
The upwind start and the short-tacking up The Solent will have seen the four putting their training routines into practice, with Gavignet and Al Hasni handling the boat on deck, while Al Shukaili and Pella manage the transfer of water ballast and sail stacking below.
At Sunday’s competitive start Oman Sail were judged to have crossed the line just before the starting gun sounded, and had to return and re-cross the line. Despite giving away several minutes to their rivals they were able to climb back into contention over the following hours.
For Gavignet and Al Hasni the Fastnet is another step on the road towards the focus of the Oman Sail Class 40 campaign in November, the 3,000-mile two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre in France to Salvador in Brazil.