After a series of testing events the Oman Sail Diam 24 team head into the finale of the Tour de France à la Voile with their ultimate goal of a top three podium finish within their reach.
The French Riviera venue of Nice is the host for what will be the deciding Act of an intense month-long campaign around the coast of France and Spain, which has seen the Thierry Douillard and Stevie Morrison-led Oman Sail crew match up to the best crews in the ultra-competitive 29-strong fleet of high-speed trimarans.
Going into the final two days of racing today (July 28) and tomorrow, Oman Sail is in fifth place overall, and only two points behind the third place team in what has proved to be a closely fought Tour.
“We had a good beginning in Roses but later picked up a penalty which meant we missed the grand-final,” said Douillard, adding that a minor technical problem also hindered their performance in Port Camargue. Marseille saw the coastal race cancelled due to strong Mistral winds.
“In the stadium racing in Marseille we started with a win, but then had a black flag for an early start which is hard to come back from,” said the former Tour winner.
“But we are only a few points off the top and it is very tight with the boats around us, so we are still in the game to claim a podium position. For sure we would like to be in front, but we will enjoy the last two days of racing and aim to climb up the table.”
Douillard also pointed out that the Nice finale features a coastal race, after which the top eight teams only from the overall standings go into a deciding super-final on Saturday
Oman Sail now hold fifth place with 661 points, poised to strike behind Tresors de Tahiti and Beijaflore Sailing who are tied on 663 points in third and fourth place.
One-time leader Team SFS, knocked down the rankings by a dismasting on the Roses coastal race, are second with 669 points, while the Fondation FDJ team top the table with a useful 20 point lead on 689.
“I would prefer to be in their position rather than our position in Nice, but it is not over yet at all,” said a determined Douillard
The Tour de France à la Voile has again been a uniquely gruelling yacht racing marathon with long coastal races followed on successive days by a rapid series of high-intensity inshore races. The demands of the almost month-long event sees each entry composed of a squad of five or six who rotate to provide the three-man race crew.
With Douillard again this time around are experienced Omani sailors Ali Al Balushi and Abdulrahman Al Mashari, along with British helm and co-skipper Stevie Morrison. French racer Mathieu Richard is the fifth member of the Oman Sail squad.
“The Tour has been a great event and very challenging for all of us,” said Al Balushi after racing at the penultimate Act in Marseille. “We have a lot of respect for all the other competitors and perhaps they have for us.
“We have had some good results and some when we would have wanted to do better, but our aim for the Tour was to finish in the top three and we are very close and we can do that in Nice.”
Sitting in sixth spot after the first Tour Acts in Dunkirk and Fecamp, the Oman Sail entry climbed the leaderboard with strong performances in Jullouville, Arzon – where they won the Finagaz best boat award – and Les Sables D’Olonne to sit in third place at the half-way point. Further racing soon followed at Roses in Spain, Port Camargue and then Marseille. The conclusion in Nice awaits.