Oman Sail’s new Class 40 team are making final preparations for their biggest challenge yet, a 2,500-mile Atlantic race to the Azores and back.
In the process co-skipper Fahad Al Hasni will make maritime history in becoming the first Omani sailor to take part in a two-handed offshore event.
Al Hasni, a long-standing member of the pioneering Oman Sail national project, will start the Les Sables-Horta-Les Sables race on 2 July alongside his mentor Sidney Gavignet. The Class 40 project is the latest chapter in a five-year relationship between Al Hasni and Gavignet, the two having previously raced together as part of the record-breaking MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail trimaran crew.
“Sidney and I have raced together a lot and this is an exciting new challenge for both of us,” said Al Hasni. “It is a new venture for Oman Sail as well, and I am proud to represent my country in a double-handed race for the first time.
“The Class 40 fleet is very competitive and they have had more experience than we have so far this season, but we are positive and will be aiming for a good result,” he added.
The highly experienced Gavignet recognises the scale of the task ahead, but highlights the solidity of the relationship with his trail-blazing co-skipper.
“The Les Sables-Horta race is a big step for sure for Fahad,” he said. “The biggest quality that we have is that we know each other very well. We have been sailing together for five years and have respect for each other. We have been through tough times together and we know how to help each other in difficult conditions.”
Starting from the French west coast port of Les Sables d’Olonne, the Azores race marks a new beginning for the Class 40 campaign and Gavignet is positive and enthusiastic about the virtues of the project. “Our goal was, and still is, to reach the podium on each race we do, but we have respect for the fleet and they have had more experience this year than we have. But we are motivated and we have been out training with other boats and that has been great.
“Another good thing is that it is shorthanded racing, so everyone has to have a full understanding of every aspect of the boat and sailing – tactics, trimming, steering, electrics, electronics – so that makes the sailors more rounded.
“The main quality of being a good shorthanded sailor is the ability to plan ahead, like when you play chess you have to think three or four moves ahead. It is very good training for the crew.”
The Oman Sail pairing will face an international fleet of 20 other Class 40s on the Horta course, with Briton Phil Sharp aboard Imerys, and Spanish ace Gonzalo Botin racing Tales II, among their main rivals.
Following the Azores race the Oman Sail pairing will take part in the legendary Rolex Fastnet Race in August, when the crew will expand to include Omani sailor Sami Al Shukaili, another MOD70 regular, and veteran Spanish sailor Alex Pella, who was one of Francis Joyon’s IDEC Sport crew which won the round-the-world record Jules Verne Trophy earlier this year.
All being well, the 2017 Class 40 campaign will culminate in November with the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre, the 3,000-mile race from Le Havre to Salvador in Brazil.