Overall standings: Team AISM 1st, BAE Systems 2nd, EFG Bank (Monaco) 3rd – Short race leg brings drama in the dark for crews -
Dubai-based Team AISM has maintained the overall lead by claiming the fourth leg of the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour following a night of drama for the world-class crews from around the world and the Gulf region competing between Dubai and northern Emirate Ras Al Khaimah.At only 53 miles up the coast from Dubai to Al Hamra is the second shortest leg on the bruising 15 day and 760 nautical mile EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour and should have been routine. But due to Custom’s procedures in Dubai taking longer than anticipated, the scheduled mid-morning start was delayed until 14:50, forcing crews to re-equip themselves and their boats ready for a night time finish.The result was a race of intense fighting in darkness with the wind ranging from zero to as much as 17 knots, with the boats reaching or sailing downwind with Bertrand Pace’s overall leader, AISM, continually a nose ahead. Following AISM into Al Hamra were the youthful Team Messe Frankfurt led by Marcel Herrera and in third team BAE Systems.Yet the finishing order does little to tell of the drama that unfolded for the teams at around 20 miles out from the finish and an hour and a half after it turned dark. Just at a time when the boats were being pushed to limit sailing high under their big spinnakers, the fleet came across an area densely populated with fishing boats and their nets.
As Cedric Pouligny, skipper of BAE Systems described the high jump manoeuvre they had to perform each time they ran into a net: “Basically you went from 10 knots of speed to zero, then you had to broach and make even more heel before the boat could get off again.” Broaching normally occurs when a boat is overpowered in a gust, the rudder loses control and the boat is forced over on its side, but was necessary on this occasion effectively to lift the keel over the net.Unfortunately the result on this leg was determined by those who got through the fishing nets the fastest.
Speaking following another action-packed leg and night of drama Issa Al Ismaili, Director of Events at the race’s organiser Oman Sail said:“Firstly congratulations to team ASIM who continue to prove best equipped to deal with every challenge the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour offers including on this occasion fishing nets. Obviously such a test at night was not planned for. But that is sailing and this world-class regatta is having to overcome unique challenges on every single leg. Even this leg to Al Hamra at only 53 miles, the second shortest on the race schedules has pushed crews to face the unknown. We’re delighted all have made it safely to Ras Al Khaimah and our preparing themselves for the next round of in-port racing.” After their disappointing result on the Abu Dhabi to Dubai leg yesterday, Marcel Herrera’s University of Plymouth team on Messe Frankfurt had managed to get back in with the lead trio and were into fourth place when they encountered the nets. “I think we hit eight fishing nets – along with every other boat, but the other boats seemed to broach a bit more when they hit them,” said Herrera. “We ploughed through them and managed to get a good technique going so that we didn’t get caught.”Because of this Messe Frankfurt emerged in second place and as the wind dropped subsequently they were closing on first placed AISM as they crossed the finish line at 21:49 (local time), three and a half minutes after Pace’s team. “It makes up for yesterday,” said Herrera.AISM crewman Benoit Briand said that through the day their speed was good and being ahead they had been able to control their opponents before they encountered the fishing nets. “We were lucky that we got over them quite easily, our keel seemed to pass over the nets.”
The AISM team was also pleased that Messe Frankfurt came home second as it puts more distance between themselves and second placed BAE Systems in the overall results. “Bertrand is going to be even more difficult to beat. He is going to be hard to catch,” admitted BAE Systems skipper Cedric Pouligny.One of the most dramatic moments occurred when team BAE Systems and EFG Bank (Monaco) got caught on the same fishing net at the same time and started to get drawn into the middle of the net so that at one point they came very close to colliding, only 2m apart.
Mohsin al Busaidi’s Renaissance came home in fifth place. The Omani skipper, the first sailor from the Middle East to sail non-stop around the world, reckoned that his team had hit maybe seven nets. “We got stuck in the first one. It was a surprise because we were all together and only two boats got stuck and other boats got through.” Al Busaidi’s solution was speed: “If you are going more than 10 knots you can pass it. We stopped once for three or four minutes and at other times we were slowed down from 10 knots to 5 and then we were off again. Fortunately Mohammed in our team is a fisherman…”
Most disappointed last night when they got in was Dee Caffari’s women’s team on Al-Thuraya Bank Muscat and Kay Heemskerk’s Dutch team on TU Delft. Having been caught in nets and then further suffering after the wind went light, they finished outside of the time limit and have been scored ‘TLE’ (time limit expired) or seven points for this leg.“It was disappointing that we didn’t get to start until five hours late and then to sail through miles of fishing nets in the dark,” said Al-Thuraya Bank Muscat’s Liz Bayliss, one of two Americans in the all-female team that also includes four Omanis.Their race effectively came to a grinding halt when they got entangled in a fishing net and remained that way for more than an hour. “We hit something and then we got stuck – the fishing boat finally came over to us and cut the net but retrieved both ends of it. There were nets everywhere,” Bayliss continued.
After the late finish the two in-port races are being held today off Al Hamra with the first start attended by H.H Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud Al Qasimi, Crown prince of RAK and commencing at 11.00am.
Competing aboard identical Farr 30 yachts, the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour has attracted nine crews representing five different nations, led locally by Oman’s Team Renaissance, Royal Navy of Oman, Team BAE Systems and the all – female Team Al-Thuraya Bank Muscat. Two teams will compete on behalf of the UAE, Team Abu Dhabi and Team AISM. International crews include EFG Bank (Monaco), Team Delft Challenge – TU Delft (Holland) and the Team Messe Frankfurt (EU).
Taking in four countries and eight ports of call, EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour is a showcase of everything that the Gulf has to offer in terms of state-of-the-art facilities and idyllic sailing conditions Leaving Manama on February 10th, EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour calls at Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, Dibba and Mussanah and ends February 25th in Muscat. The racing will include in-port racing at selected locations
On 25 November, Sail Bahrain’s Kingdom of Bahrain Volvo 60 racing yacht was stopped by Iranian navy vessels, as it was making its way from Bahrain to the start of the Dubai-Muscat Offshore Sailing Race. The boat may have strayed inadvertently into Iranian waters.
The five crew members, all British nationals, are still in Iran. All are understood to be safe and well and their families have been informed.
British media identified the five as Oliver Smith, Sam Usher, of; Luke Porter, of Weston-super-Mare; Oliver Young, of from Saltash, near Plymouth; and David Bloomer, from Malahide, county Dublin. Bloomer, a Bahrain-based radio presenter who was due to air broadcasts about the race, was travelling with a but is believed to have dual British-Irish citizenship.
The families of several of the sailors said they had been able to speak to them by phone since their detention. Charles Porter, father of Luke Porter, said he had talked to his son on Monday and “he was as good as can be expected.”
“He is a very strong character, very resilient. He’s a professional sailor, very used to dealing with adversity.”
Oman Sail’s A100 trimaran, Majan, departed Kuwait City on Tuesday, 10th November, on the first leg of the new Tour of Arabia race. Kuwait is the start of the five-leg Tour of Arabia which will link together the GCC countries. As the tour travel southwards it will stop in Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and finally, home to Muscat and the Oman Sail project.
Majan wass berthed in The Yacht Club Kuwait run by the government-owned Touristic Enterprises Company that offers berthing for 390 boats. As this is a public marina, Majan has enjoyed many visitors dropping by to talk to the crew and have a tour. Further along the coast is Al Kout that is home to the annual Kuwait Boat Show.
Majan, Oman Sail’s new A100 trimaran will be tracing out the route of this new professional sailing event organised by OC Events. Majan skipper, Paul Standbridge, commented: “It is an exciting prospect to be tracing out this new route which is really covering unchartered territory in terms of professional racing. Myself and all the Majan crew are really looking forward to this new adventure together, setting the reference times for other boats to challenge in the future years of this race. When we leave Kuwait City we will track east to avoid the oil fields and wells and other restricted areas. The total distance of the leg from Kuwait to Bahrain is 270 miles but the wind conditions here are light so we won’t be breaking any speed records! Nevertheless, sailing in light winds can be just as challenging as sailing in strong winds, as you have to work hard to keep the boat moving and making the most of the breeze when you have it. It’s good to be in a new country and the people are really friendly and helpful.”
Majan will be crewed by seven in total including skipper Paul Standbridge, and Oman Sail’s Mohsin Al Busaidi who become the first ever Arab to sail non-stop around the world in March this year. Two other Oman Sail trainees will join Paul and Mohsin alongside two professional crew and Mark Covell, a highly accomplished offshore sailing reporter as an onboard media crew member.
Kuwait is developing its modern sailing programme but it was Kuwait’s pearl industry that laid the foundation of its rich maritime history. Dhows, large wooden ships made from teak wood imported from India, became a distinct part of Kuwait’s maritime fleet and dhow building is still practiced in the state. Sailing is in its infancy in the country but the warm sea and flat waters are conducive to its development. The Kuwait Offshore Sailing Association and the Fahaheel Offshore Sailing Club promote sailing in Kuwait and run regular races and sail training programmes.
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab emirate bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and Iraq to the north and west. The name is a diminutive of an Arabic word meaning ‘fortress built near the water’ and home to a population of nearly 3 million. Kuwait City was first settled in the early 18th Century by the Al-Sabah clan, later the ruling family of Kuwait and a branch of the Al-Utub tribe (that also included the Al-Khalifah clan, the ruling family of Bahrain), and their leader, Sheikh Sabah.
Tour of Arabia:
Kuwait City, Kuwait
In port 7th-9th November
Depart 10th November
In port 12th-14th November
Depart 15th November
In port 16th-17th November
Depart 18th November
Abu Dhabi & Dubai, United Arab Emirates
In port Abu Dhabi, 19th-20th November
Depart 21st November
In port Dubai, 21st-26th November
Depart 27th November
Arrival end of November, 2009