Grand Prix Atlantique: Oman Sail team wins opener
Oman Sail Diam 24-A crew, led by French sailor Thierry Douillard, emerged victorious in the 2017 season's curtain-raiser. Douillard's crew snatched the win in the final race of the Grand Prix Atlantique in Pornichet, France - the opening event of the busy European summer season - on Monday.
It marked a perfect start for the team as it kick-starts its campaign for glory in the Tour de France a la Voile (TDV), the highlight of the season.
The Oman Sail team shot out of the blocks, winning the opening race of the three-day event and finishing day one in second place, sending a clear message to its rivals, including 2016 TDV winner Lorina
A tricky second day saw the crew - featuring Douillard as skipper plus ex-Olympic sailor Stevie Morrison and former match racing world champion Mathieu Richard alongside Omani sailors Ali al Balushi and Abdulraman al Mashari - slip to joint third as the fleet fought it out in a mix of stadium and coastal races.
A win in the opening race of the final day saw the team claw back vital points on overall leader Lorina Limonade, which it followed up with a solid fourth place in the penultimate race.
As the final showdown got underway, Lorina Limonade was adjudged to have been over the start line within a minute of the gun firing, prompting automatic disqualification for the pre-event favourite.
Another fourth-place finish was enough for Douillard and the Oman Sail team to secure the regatta win by two points and claim its first silverware of the year.
“What a great event,” skipper Douillard said. “It is always good to win an event, but it's even better to win the first one of the season. It means that all the work and training we did over the winter really paid off. It means we're up there with the best teams and it's a good reminder to them that we're here to get good results.
“Our boat-handling and crew work was great, and Ali and Abdul were really impressive. The cohesion between Stevie, Matt and myself was great, too.”
Balushi, who undertook sail trimming duties, said, “We couldn't have asked for a better start to the season. We have shown we can win - now we need to carry that success on into the next event.”
Oman Sail Diam 24-B crew, led by French offshore sailor Cedric Pouligny, finished in 23rd place. The development squad, featuring Omani sailors Yasser al Rahbi, Raad al Hadi, Akram al Wahaibi and Haitham al Wahaibi, will compete in all the events in the run-up to the TDV.
Both crews will now turn their attentions to the next test - the five-day Spi Ouest France regatta, from April 13-17.