MUSCAT: French skipper Thierry Douillard will lead the crew of Sailing Arabia powered by Oman Sail. As in last year’s race, and on EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour (SATT) in January, the team consists of experienced Omani sailors Ali Al Balushi and Abdulrahman Al Mashari, British Olympian Stevie Morrison and French race ace Mathieu Richard.
And in a change from last year, Oman Sail’s Diam development team will also take part in the main event. Team Oman Sail is led by Pierre Le Clainche with a crew of Sami Al Shukaili, Yasser Al Rhabi and Haitham Al Wahaibi.
“We are hoping for a podium finish this year, and if things are going well we can perhaps do a touch more,” said Douillard. “Our first goal is to be racing near the front of the fleet, without any big mistakes.
“It was always the plan this year to have the development team in the Tour Voile itself with Pierre. They have all really improved a lot and we had a really good training camp last week.
“We are ready and they are going to keep on improving. A good result for them would be a mid-fleet finish in the Tour.”
This year’s Tour Voile is a shorter but more intense event, with seven Acts and a total of 15 days of racing on the 17-day schedule. Most of the Acts will see a long and challenging coastal race on the first day followed by quick-fire inshore stadium racing and a finals race on the second.
However, the Tour starts in Dunkirk on July 6 with three days of intensive stadium racing for the 28-strong fleet. The event will conclude at the final Act in Nice on July 21 and 22.
“The event is a week shorter than before, but it is much more intense, so it will be very challenging for all the teams,” said Al Balushi. “We finished in fifth place last year, so our aim is to do better and perhaps win a spot on the podium.”
Douillard adds that taking part in the newly-revised EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour earlier in the year – which took a competitive fleet of Diam 24s along the coast of Oman from Salalah to Muscat – was the perfect start to the season.
He said: “EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour was one of the best ways to prepare for the season for us, as well as some of the other teams, and it will be very good next season as well. It is the perfect training platform for the Tour Voile.”
Almost all of the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour fleet’s boats and crews – including the overall winner Beijaflore skippered by Valentin Bellet – will be on the Tour Voile start line on July 6, ready to renew the on the water rivalry around the coast of France.