Changes to the 2016 edition of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour (SATT), designed to raise its status on the global sailing calendar as a compulsory regional regatta and a valuable winter training event for teams coming from further afield, have been welcomed by offshore sailing professionals around the world.
Building on a hugely successful event in 2015, Oman Sail has redesigned the route of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour for 2016 to accommodate a demanding 200 nautical mile offshore leg that stretches all the way from Doha in Qatar to Khasab at the very tip of the spectacular Musandam peninsula as one of five offshore legs in addition to three inshore races.
Starting on 14 February 2016 in Dubai, SATT will kick off with an inshore race hosted by the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club before the fleet heads off on the first offshore leg to Abu Dhabi.
Two more inshore races in Abu Dhabi and Doha, where valuable points will be accrued, will combine with two of the trickiest offshore legs of the race, the first from Abu Dhabi to Doha through the notoriously difficult oilfields and the second from Doha to a new SATT destination, Khasab in Oman, giving the crews a more demanding offshore challenge.
From Khasab, they will race out of the Straits of Hormuz, round the Musandam Peninsula and down the coast of the Sultanate of Oman to Sohar where they will be treated to a special rest day dedicated to Omani culture.
A fifth and final leg, a sprint from Sohar to The Wave, Muscat in the country’s capital, starting on 28 February, will present a double points opportunity designed to end the region’s number one offshore race on an exciting high.
The changes have been welcomed by skippers and teams looking to enter the 2016 race which is anticipated to attract over a dozen entries from around the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region and Europe.
“This makes SATT more interesting because it will test the full skill range of the crews,” said Sidney Gavignet, French skipper of two-time winner Team EFG Bank Monaco.
“We will experience different types of sailing, both upwind and downwind, different weather systems, different leg durations and the different tactical challenges presented by racing one day close to shore and the next out to sea.
“I think it is a good mix and will be even more attractive to sailors because there will be more opportunity for all the crews, however experienced or inexperienced and that will lead to more entries and higher levels of competitiveness in the fleet. It is a really exciting development and I think it will be a lot of fun.”
Omani skipper Fahad Al Hasni, who in 2015 led his all Omani crew Team Renaissance to fifth place already has his eyes on a podium place in 2016.
“This new course has come out of discussions over previous races so it is what the sailors would choose themselves. We like downwind racing and this course is mostly downwind so that will be fun,” he said.
“If we sail well, we have a chance of making it onto the podium.”
Salma Al Hashmi, Director of Marketing and Events at Oman Sail, added: “We have used all the valuable feedback we have had over the past five races to come up with a course we feel will consolidate EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour’s position as the premier offshore race in the Middle East.
“Sailors like difficult and varied challenges and that is what Oman Sail is trying to offer. We are especially excited about our day of culture at Sohar that has also been organised in response to feedback.
“Some of our international skippers felt they wanted to experience a little more of what the Sultanate of Oman has to offer so we are delighted to show them. For a whole day, all the crews will be able to revel in a festival of Omani food, traditions and culture so will leave Oman with a flavour of what makes this country so appealing,” she said.