Slick French outfit Beijaflore continued their quest to dethrone EFG Bank Monaco as kings of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour today with victory in the second of five testing coastal raids.
The 2017 Tour Voile third-place finishers followed up their early success in the opening stadium races and coastal raid in southern Omani city Salalah with a win in the gruelling 23-mile race held at the port town of Duqm.
British Olympian Stevie Morrison’s Averda crew scored their best result to date claiming the runners up spot, while reigning champions EFG Bank Monaco came home in third.
Beijaflore’s triumph not only consolidates their place at the top of the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour standings but deals another blow to EFG Bank Monaco, winners of every edition of the regatta since 2014.
Racing kicked off in Duqm on Wednesday with five intense clashes sailed on a short course inside the port breakwater, with EFG Bank Monaco emerging on top as they proved masters in the lighter winds ahead of Lorina Golfe du Morbihan and Beijaflore.
As the second coastal raid began on Thursday in slightly better breeze of around 10 knots, a fired-up Beijaflore shot off the start line as the eight-strong fleet entered into battle for the fourth time.
Crucially they rounded the first turning mark at the front of the fleet, which features top teams from Oman, Monaco, France, Britain, Switzerland and Germany, and pulled away as they headed towards the island of Jazirat Hamar an Nafur around seven miles from Duqm.
Frontrunners Beijaflore and Averda gambled on taking the shortest course past the island but both teams stopped dead in the water as they hit its wind shadow.
The slip-up allowed arch rivals EFG Bank Monaco, along with Bernard Stamm’s Cheminees Poujoulat and Lorina Golfe du Morbihan, to wipe out the leaders’ advantage.
Just when it looked like Beijaflore’s lead would be snatched from them they caught a lucky puff of wind and took off again. Averda were not so fortunate, slipping from second to sixth in a matter of seconds.
Three challenging legs followed as boat speed and tactics took equal importance and, though the racing was too tight to call at times, ultimately Beijaflore proved uncatchable.
Downwind speed and canny tactics from navigator Nic Asher saw Averda claw their way back into second, finishing just moments ahead of EFG Bank Monaco.
“We were very focused on the start of this coastal race – we trained a lot before the event and it paid off,” said Beijaflore helmsman Guillaume Pirouelle. “We had a great start, and after that we were quite confident in our position for the rest of the race.”
Averda skipper Morrison added: “The event so far has been fantastic. There are five teams here that would be top ten standard in the Tour Voile, and world level in the Diam 24. The new-look Sailing Arabia has felt like a real adventure, it’s great fun, and we’ve been blessed by good winds so far. Bring on the next round!”
Beijaflore’s victory puts them seven points clear at the top of the leaderboard, with EFG Bank in second, two points ahead of Averda in third.
Just eight points split the top six teams as EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour heads to the paradise island of Masirah for round three, featuring a coastal raid on February 10 and a round of stadium racing the following day.
The tour will take in Ras Al Hadd, Sur, and Bandar Al Rowdha before concluding in Muscat’s old town of Mutrah on February 17.