MUSCAT: Fahad al Hasni and his Omani team-mates were crowned champions of the opening leg of EFG Sailing Arabia — The Tour at a prize-giving ceremony in Sohar last night.
Al Hasni led Team Renaissance (OMA) to a spectacular comeback in the event opener, a 105-nautical mile sprint from Muscat to Sohar, overhauling long term leg leaders EFG Bank Monaco minutes before the finish line.
It is a historic victory for Al Hasni, who has competed in every edition of the race around the Arabian Gulf since it began in 2011.
Team Renaissance took to the stage to receive their Leg 1 winners’ trophy from Dr Hilal al Hadhrami, Dean of the International Maritime College Oman (IMCO) which hosted the prize-giving ceremony.
EFG Bank Monaco (MON), the reigning EFG Sailing Arabia — The Tour champions, took the runners-up spot while Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA) rounded off the podium.
“We’re all so happy to have won this match race against these world-famous sailors,” Al Hasni said.
“We sailed very well with good communication and great tactics. We were able to pass them just before the finish line which felt amazing.
“These are our home waters; we know them better than anyone else. To win here is the ideal start for us.”
The teams were treated to displays of traditional Omani culture at IMCO before feasting on a banquet of local delicacies.
The evening provided the perfect amount of relaxation before the eight international teams turned their thoughts to the next round of racing from Sohar to Khasab, the second of five offshore stages that make up the 763nm Arabian classic.
As well as being one third longer than the event opener, Leg 2 also presents numerous on-the-water challenges including a changing weather forecast and dozens of oil tankers to dodge.
The leg will see the fleet sail along the picturesque coasts of Oman and the UAE before reaching the beautiful Musandam Peninsula where Khasab and the finish line lie.
The headland, characterised by rocky fjords that have earned it the nickname ‘Arabia’s Norway’, is the gateway to the Straits of Hormuz, the narrow entry into the Arabian Gulf.
“Leg 2 is one of my favourite legs,” said Mary Rook (GBR), crewmember on all-female team DB Schenker (GER).
“The coastline gets mountainous and there are some beautiful islands to sail past. Sailing round Musandam is one of the highlights of the Tour for me so I’m really looking forward to Leg 2.”
With winds forecast to lighten it could take the fleet more than 24 hours to complete the stage. Mercifully, the sailors had a good night’s rest in Sohar at the Crowne Plaza!
“With open arms we extended a very warm welcome to Oman Sail and the sailing teams racing EFG Sailing Arabia — The Tour. We were delighted with the opportunity to have them as our valued guests, and to be able to extend the Omani experience of our international hospitality, our warmth and our friendship. It is inspiring to see such talented and dynamic sports people and I wish them all the best for the rest of the tour. We invite EFG Sailing Arabia — The Tour to return over and over again in the future,” said Charles Saliba, General Manager of Crowne Plaza Sohar.
Results after Leg 1:
1. Team Renaissance (OMA/Fahad al Hasni) – 1 point
2. EFG Bank Monaco (MON/Thierry Douillard) – 2 points
3. Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA/Christian Ponthieu) – 3 points
4. Team Zain (KUW/Cedric Pouligny) – 4 points
5. Adelasia di Torres (ITA/Renato Azara) – 5 points
6. Team Averda (GBR/Andrew Baker) – 6 points
7. Bienne Voile (SUI/Lorenz Mueller) – 7 points
8. DB Schenker (GER/Annemeike Bes) – 8 points