After 15 days, 1408 kilometres and seven ports, the nine competing teams in Sailing Arabia – the Tour reached their final destination in Muscat, Oman today (February 27), where the French on Courrier Dunkerque were crowned Sailing Arabia – the Tour Champions, 2012.
Under the Patronage of His Highness Sayyid Harib bin Thuwani al Said, the teams were welcomed to The Wave, Muscat, for the official prize giving.
The professional French team Courrier Dunkerque had an untouchable lead going into the final leg this morning and rounded up what has been a perfect scoreboard for them with another leg win.
“Sailing Arabia has been a great event for us,” said Daniel Souben, the team’s skipper.
“The competition has been good and there have been lots of different conditions to contend with. This has been a great event and the Gulf is a fantastic sailing venue.”
After a delayed start while the fleet motored along the coastline waiting for the breeze to fill in, the line was finally laid, leaving just a 10-mile race-course for their final shot at the leader board. It was a short upwind burst to start off and a quick mark-rounding before the fleet headed downwind for the sprint to the finish line, spinnakers set, in 7-knots of breeze.
The battle for second between Team BAE Systems and Team Commercial bank was tense, with the latter just one point ahead of Team BAE Systems. Bertrand Pace’s match-racing pedigree on Team Commercial bank was evident, marking Team BAE Systems the whole way and ultimately maintaining the upper hand, finishing in fifth – enough for the Qatari-flagged team to claim the second place overall.
“The last leg was very short and most of it we were match-racing Commercial bank,” Team BAE System’s Abdullah Al Farsi said. “It was very close but ‘praising Allah’ we finished in the top three overall. We would have liked to be second but third is still very good. The team all really excelled in this event and both the Omani sailors and the French sailors in our team feel amazing to be on the podium today”.
The all-women’s team – Al Thuraya Bank Muscat -and Team Renaissance was in a similar battle for fourth and fifth.
“We knew going into today is was all on between us and the Omani boys as just one point separated us”, Al Thuraya Bank skipper Dee Caffari explained, “so beating them was our priority. We did that, but I have really mixed emotions as we missed the podium on that leg by a hairs breadth. I really wanted the girls to get on the podium. I was pretty upset, but seeing the girls celebrated the fourth place overall made it all worthwhile, they were so happy.
“I am immensely proud of the whole team, particularly the Omani girls who have just grown and developed during the event. The girls have genuinely developed a love for sailing. They love being on the boat and they are keen to carry on.”
Ahmed Al Mamari, Team Renaissance skipper also praised his team
“They have done a great job. It was a tough race and we can’t all be winners. We had a great battle with the Omani girls’ boat and it came right down to that last leg. This is the nature of racing – it was a good race and we worked really hard from start to finish.” Ahmed said he is already planning for next year’s Sailing Arabia – the Tour.
Team Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had a one-point lead over Team Bahrain in sixth and seventh place going into today’s race and after rounding the mark in second place, Team Kingdom of Saudi Arabia held their position, securing third place, their best result of the tour, and enough to finish sixth overall.
“It was a relatively short leg, but everything just worked on board and we sailed like a rocket ship! It has been great sailing with the Saudi guys and we have really started working better as a team, hopefully it is the beginning of something for the future,” Robin Elsey, the young British skipper of Team Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, said.
Despite an impressive second place finish today, the all Omani-crewed Team Muscat 2012 finished in eighth place overall, while Team Ras Al Khaimah, the only team representing the UAE, brought up the tail end of the fleet in ninth place.
The achievements of the regional teams can best be put into perspective by the level of competition they have faced over the last two weeks, which includes a line-up of world champions, America’s Cup sailors and veterans of the Tour du France Al Voile, the event on which SATT is based.
In its second edition, Sailing Arabia – the Tour has seen a 50% increase in the number of teams competing, and a significant growth in the number of teams from the GCC, with five of the six GCC nations represented. Significantly, the teams representing, Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have all sailed with a national from their region on board, a sure sign of the development of sailing within the region.
“This race is going to play a crucial part in the development of local and regional sailing talent”, said Oman Sail’s CEO David Graham. “They are already interacting with and sailing against some of the best sailors in the world through this event. Watching Team Muscat 2012 come in second on that final leg today is a clear indication that sailing in the region is on the rise.”
The 2012 edition of the Tour was declared a resounding success by the sailors. Tour winners Courrier Dunkerque have already declared their intention to come back next year. “Sailing Arabia takes place at a very good time for us, it is the winter at home in France and is a good start to the season for us.”
His Highness Sayyid Harib bin Thuwani al Said, praised the sailors and organisers of Sailing Arabia – the Tour.
“I would like to thank the oganisers and the participants for this beautiful event, although it comes as no surprise to me that they have delivered it so professionally. The Tour has grown much bigger since last year and we only wish it to grow even bigger and bigger in the coming years.”
As one event draws to a close, the next begins, and tomorrow The Wave, Muscat will be transformed to host an altogether different kind of sailing event, The Extreme Sailing Series. The 40 international sailors who will compete in the Extreme Sailing Series were dock-side today to welcome the SATT teams’ home and tomorrow the SATT teams will return the favour, cheering the eight Extreme 40’s on as they go head-to-head, over the next four days.
And the all-women team missed third by a hair’s breadth!