MUSCAT: The Oman Sail duo of Sidney Gavignet and Fahad al Hasni are still ambitious and will be racing for a top of the fleet finish despite losing some time during the first leg of the Les Sables-Horta-Les Sables race from France to the Azores after gear failure. Gavignet and Omani offshore yachtsman Fahad al Hasni are still in touch with the leaders in the two-handed 2,500-mile race. After being as high as second place, at the end of the first leg the Oman Sail team finished sixth, 10 hours behind the leading boat but only five adrift of the third place Class 40 yacht.
The second leg from the Azores back to France starts on Friday (July 14), with the times from both legs combined to produce the overall race result.
“It will be difficult but not impossible to overtake them,” said Gavignet. “It is still something we would like to do but we have had so much to learn with the boat that we have had to readjust our goals. With or without a podium finish we want to have a good leg.”
In any event, whatever the eventual result the race has provided invaluable experience. Al Hasni said: “We had a lot of different conditions on the first leg and it was all about learning more about the boat. Now we understand the boat better, so hopefully the second leg will be better for us than the first one.
“I was able to make a big step forward as well. We sailed more than 1,200 miles, a great chance to learn a lot of things. Sailing double-handed you are alone on deck a lot, so I had the experience of sailing the boat alone, at night and in strong breeze. I learned a lot but I still think I need more experience of that,” he added with a laugh.
In contrast to the complexity of the first leg, with some strong wind but many patches of light breeze, the forecast for the 1,250-mile leg back to France is looking straightforward.
To do well the Oman Sail team will need their yacht’s bowsprit to be fully functional. It broke midway through the first leg and left them unable to use their specialist J-One and Code Zero sails, both of which will be vital in the forecast conditions on leg two. A replacement bowsprit and Oman Sail’s Technical Manager Loik Gallon have arrived in Horta for what could be a lengthy repair.
Pre-race favourites Tales II and Imerys are in first and second spot at the half-way stage, followed by Stella Nova, Colombre XL and Serenis Consulting, which overhauled Oman Sail in the final miles to the finish but are only 17 minutes ahead.
The Azores race and the Rolex Fastnet Race in August are both part of the Oman Sail Class 40 campaign, which will culminate in November with the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre, a 3,000-mile race from Le Havre to Salvador in Brazil.