French sailing star Thierry Douillard says his EFG Bank Monaco (MON) crew will focus firmly on defending their EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour title from arch rivals Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA) as the Arabian classic approaches its climax.
Just four points separate the reigning champions from plucky challengers Team Al Mouj Muscat after both teams walked away from the fourth and penultimate stage yesterday with an equal share of the spoils.
A windless night saw the 160-nautical mile stage from Abu Dhabi to Doha split into two parts, with Team Al Mouj Muscat sneaking victory in the opening half ahead of EFG Bank Monaco followed by a reversal of positions in round two of the stage.
On paper EFG Bank Monaco, who have lifted the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour trophy the past three years, took overall Leg 4 victory but in reality, both teams came away with 2.25 points to guarantee a nail-biting finale to Arabia’s premier offshore regatta.
Douillard, a formidable replacement for injured long term skipper Sidney Gavignet, said his men now plan on targeting Team Al Mouj Muscat over the one offshore leg and two in-port race series that remain.
“For sure we are paying more attention to Team Al Mouj Muscat than the other boats, it’s part of the game,” he said. “They are fast and we’re both very close, so it’s going to be pretty tight. We have finished in front of Team Al Mouj Muscat four times from five finishes now and we just need to keep it like that until the end.”
Christian Ponthieu said his team, which includes fellow big-name sailor Gilles Favennec as well as Omani rising star Sultan Al Balushi, would do all in their power to topple EFG Bank Monaco and go one better than their runner’s-up finish in last year’s event.
“We have to find a way to match their speed, they’re always a little bit quicker, but we will find a solution for the last leg,” he said. “Before that we have in-port racing, which is an entirely different way of sailing. If we get good starts in the in-port races we could do pretty well.”
Team Renaissance, led by Omani sailor Fahad Al Hasni, put in a solid performance to finish Leg 4 in third overall, consolidating their podium position in the regatta standings.
Meanwhile Adelasia di Torres (ITA), the newest team to the race, inched closer to a podium finish with fourth place overall in Leg 4, their best result to date.
“We were second for a lot of the first part of the leg, and that’s a great sign for us,” said Enrico Zennaro, the team’s tactician. “We still need to improve for the in-port races and the final leg, and hopefully we can keep rising through the rankings.”
The frustration continued for Team Averda (GBR), crossing the line in sixth place in both stages of the leg.
After four long offshore legs that put the crews’ navigational skills to the test, tomorrow’s Doha In-Port Race Series will be all about sheer speed and boat handling around a short course.
It is a vital opportunity to pick up points ahead of the final offshore leg from Doha to Dubai.
At 205nm the stage, starting on Sunday, will be the longest of the five legs, and will see the fleet pick their way through oil fields and round islands over more than 32 hours at sea.
EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2017 will then reach its climax with an in-port race series in Dubai.
Results of Leg 4 (part one / part two):
- EFG Bank Monaco (MON/Thierry Douillard) – 1.5 points + 0.75 points = 2.25 points
- Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA/Christian Ponthieu) – 0.75 points + 1.5 points = 2.25 points
- Team Renaissance (OMA/Fahad Al Hasni) – 2.25 points + 3 points = 5.25 points
- Adelasia di Torres (ITA/Renato Azara) – 3 points + 3.75 points = 6.75 points
- Team Zain (KUW/Cedric Pouligny) – 5.25 points + 2.25 points = 7.5 points
- Team Averda (GBR/Andrew Baker) – 4.5 points + 4.5 points = 9 points
- Bienne Voile (SUI/Lorenz Mueller) – 3.75 points + 5.25 points = 9 points
- DB Schenker (GER/Annemeike Bes) – 6 points + 6 points = 12 points
- EFG Bank Monaco (MON/Thierry Douillard) – 7.25 points
- Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA/Christian Ponthieu) – 11.25 points
- Team Renaissance (OMA/Fahad Al Hasni) – 16.75 points
- Team Zain (KUW/Cedric Pouligny) – 22 points
- Team Averda (GBR/Andrew Baker) – 30.5 points
- Adelasia di Torres (ITA/Renato Azara) – 33.75 points
- Bienne Voile (SUI/Lorenz Mueller) – 34.50 points
- DB Schenker (GER/Annemeike Bes) – 38.50 points
Watch Episode 1 of a 3 part series about the race on YouTube: https://youtu.be/2vw-kXvrlyo
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