MUSCAT: Oman Sail’s Diam 24 crew will be looking to replicate their victory at the 2017 European racing season opener when they take on their next challenge — Spi Ouest-France regatta. The team, led by French sailing star Thierry Douillard and including talented Omanis Ali al Balushi and Abdulrahman al Mashari, will head back into battle against some of the world’s best crews at the famous regatta in Brittany, France. They will go into the event as favourites for the top spot after a dream result in the Grand Prix Atlantique, the first event of the European racing season, in which they snatched first place in the final race.
But victory is far from assured – the Diam 24 class is one of the most hotly contested fleets in the world, attracting top notch competition that includes America’s Cup stars, Olympians and round-the-world sailors.
Spi Ouest-France, held in picturesque La Trinité-sur-Mer, is the second regatta in a busy calendar of events that Oman Sail’s Diam 24 crew will contest in the run-up to the Tour de France a la Voile, the highlight of the season.
“We had a dream start to our 2017 campaign with a win at Grand Prix Atlantique but now we have to forget that and focus solely on getting a good result at Spi Ouest-France,” said Al Balushi, one of Oman’s most promising sailors.
“The racing was very tight at the first event and we are under no illusions about how tough it will be to enjoy the same success.”
Douillard, a long-serving member of the Oman Sail offshore crew, said that the racing at Spi Ouest-France would present a new challenge to his team.
“The racing at Grand Prix Atlantique was very similar to the format of the Tour de France a la Voile, with a mix of stadium and coastal races,” he said.
“Spi Ouest-France, on the other hand, is more traditional with long windward-leeward courses. It will be good for us to be able to focus more on speed rather than manoeuvring. We had good speed in Pornichet and now we need to capitalise on that for Spi Ouest-France.
“We are quite confident in our speed — we worked really hard before the start of the season on this. But we’re going to have to work even harder when we go up against the top teams at Spi Ouest-France.”
Among the competition at Spi Ouest-France will be 2016 Tour de France a la Voile winners Lorina Limonade, who Oman Sail pipped to first place at Grand Prix Atlantique, and Cheminees Poujoulat skippered by Swiss round-the-world star Bernard Stamm.
A second Oman Sail crew, led by French offshore sailor Cedric Pouligny and crewed by Omani sailors Yasser al Rahbi, Raad al Hadi, Akram al Wuhaibi and Haitham al Wuhaibi, will also compete at the event.
The development squad will compete in all of the events in the run-up to Tour de France a la Voile to give the up-and-coming Omani sailors a taste of top-level competition.
Spi Ouest-France runs from April 13 to 17.
Team A crew members:
3.Abdulrahman al Mashari
4.Ali al Balushi
Team B crew members:
2.Yasser al Rahbi
3.Akram al Wuhaibi
4.Raad al Hadi
5.Haitham al Wuhaibi