MUSCAT: French sailing star Thierry Douillard on Thursday led his EFG Bank Monaco (MON) team to their fourth consecutive EFG Sailing Arabia — The Tour (SATT) title as the Arabian classic came to a thrilling climax.
Douillard’s men sealed their victory in style by winning the final race of the event, a sprint around a short course that rounded off the Dubai in-port series. EFG Bank Monaco began the two-week long, five-leg race around the Arabian Gulf as the hot favourites having won the past three editions.
The reigning champions dominated the podium throughout the tour, winning four of the five offshore stages and one in-port race series. But it wasn’t all plain sailing, Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA), the 2016 runners-up, threatened to usurp EFG Bank Monaco and when they crossed the finish line of the fifth and final leg from Doha to Dubai in first place it looked like a photo-finish was on the cards.
Team Al Mouj’s hopes of toppling their rivals were dashed when an international jury deemed them to have sailed into an exclusion zone during the leg, resulting in their disqualification. EFG Bank Monaco went into the Dubai in-port race series with an unassailable lead before bowing out on a high, finishing the final inshore series second to Team Al Mouj Muscat.
It was an exhilarating end to an epic race that saw the eight international crews from seven different countries cover 763nm from Muscat to Suhar, around the Musandam Peninsula to Khasab in Oman and on to Abu Dhabi in the UAE. The fleet then embarked on two legs across the Arabian Gulf to Doha in Qatar and back to Dubai, showcasing the world-class sailing the region has on offer.
“It’s a great feeling to win the regatta,” said Douillard, who led the team in place of injured long-term skipper Sidney Gavignet. “We really deserved it — we’ve worked so hard over these last two weeks.
“We had a major contest with Team Al Mouj Muscat the entire event and it was just the tiny details that made the difference. We were fast upwind and downwind and in the end we had good control over the fleet. This was one of the best editions of EFG Sailing Arabia — The Tour for sure — we had wonderful conditions, brilliant legs around the Musandam Peninsula, and a great battle with Team Al Mouj Muscat. I think Sidney will be happy — for us it’s a case of ‘a job well done’.”
EFG Bank Monaco will now have their names engraved on the SATT trophy for a fourth time. Team Al Mouj Muscat’s disqualification in Leg 5 saw them relegated to third place overall, behind Leg 1 winners Team Renaissance (OMA) led by Gavignet’s protégé and Omani sailing star, Fahad al Hasni, with a 90 per cent Omani crew.
The second-place finish saw Al Hasni’s crew redeem their 2016 result when they finished one point off the podium. “I am so proud of my team and what we’ve done,” Al Hasni said. “Our goal this year was to finish on the podium. We did it, and to finish in second is even better. Everyone is very excited and happy, and tonight we will celebrate!”
Team Al Mouj Muscat skipper Christian Ponthieu said his team could hold their heads high despite eventually losing first place to EFG Bank Monaco. “We sailed a good regatta and were really consistent over the two weeks, always in the top three,” he said. “EFG Bank Monaco were very good and it was hard to beat them.”
A third-place finish in the Dubai in-port series wasn’t enough to elevate Team Zain (KUW) to the podium and they ended the regatta in fourth ahead of event newcomers Adelasia di Torres from Italy.
Last year’s third-place finishers Team Averda (GBR) had to settle for sixth, with Bienne Voile (SUI) in seventh and all-female crewed DB Schenker (GER) in eighth. A special prize-giving ceremony celebrating the achievements of the sailors and the success of SATT was held later. The awards were presented by Shaikh Khalid bin Zayed al Nahyan, President of the UAE Sailing and Rowing Federation, and Dr Khalid bin Said al Jaradi, Oman’s Ambassador to the UAE.
Dubai in-port race series:
1. Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA/Christian Ponthieu) – 1 point
2. EFG Bank Monaco (MON/Thierry Douillard) – 1.25 points
3. Team Zain (KUW/Cedric Pouligny) – 1.5 points
4. Team Renaissance (OMA/Fahad al Hasni) – 2.25 points
5. DB Schenker (GER/Annemeike Bes) – 2.5 points
6. Adelasia di Torres (ITA/Renato Azara) – 2.5 points
7. Team Averda (GBR/Andrew Baker) – 3 points
8. Bienne Voile (SUI/Lorenz Mueller) – DNS – 4.5 points
1. EFG Bank Monaco (MON/Thierry Douillard) – 11.25 points
2. Team Renaissance (OMA/Fahad al Hasni) – 28 points
3. Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA/Christian Ponthieu) – 31 points
4. Team Zain (KUW/Cedric Pouligny) – 33.5 points
5. Adelasia di Torres (ITA/Renato Azara) – 43.25 points
6. Team Averda (GBR/Andrew Baker) – 49.75 points
7. Bienne Voile (SUI/Lorenz Mueller) – 60 points
8. DB Schenker (GER/Annemeike Bes) – 62.75 points