Sailing Arabia-The Tour: EFG Bank looks for decisive lead
Having already built a decent overall lead, defending champion EFG Bank, Monaco will be aiming to seize a decisive win in the penultimate stage of the 2017 Sailing Arabia-The Tour (SATT), from Abu Dhabi, UAE to Doha, Qatar.
The three-time winner, led by Thierry Douillard of France, won the previous two legs and finished runner-up in the opening leg to gain a healthy four-point lead over its nearest rival, Team Al Mouj, Muscat (nine points) and six and a half points ahead of the third-placed Team Renaissance.
A victory in the 160 nautical-mile fourth offshore leg in the 763 nautical-mile regatta will help Douillard and his crew inch closer to their fourth successive win.
However, the leading boat faces stiff competition from Al Mouj, which is being skippered by Frenchman Christian Ponthieu, Fahad al Hasni's Team Renaissance and the experienced Cedric Pouligny's Team Zain. All the eight boats set sail for the penultimate leg on Wednesday morning from the Emirates Palace Marina.
Al Mouj's Omani crewmember Sultan al Balushi has promised a tough fight against EFG Bank, saying, “We're going to fight as hard as we can. We want to beat EFG Bank, Monaco. They need to be really careful on this leg because we're coming after them.”
With more points available on the last two legs due to longer distances and in-port races scheduled in Doha and the final stop in Dubai, Al Mouj - along with Renaissance and Zain - will hope that EFG Bank stumbles so that the contest stays alive till the end.
Swiss team Bienne Voile, which finished fifth in the third leg and is overall sixth, boosted its crew for the penultimate stages as the teenaged duo of Jann Schubach and Damian Suri came aboard.
Schubach, 16, and Suri, 18, raised money through a crowdfunding campaign to join the team, taking time out of their studies in Switzerland.
Schubach is the youngest sailor in the race at this year's edition. Earlier on Tuesday, a prize-giving ceremony for the top teams of the second and third legs was held at Emirates Palace Marina.
Overall standings: 1 EFG Bank Monaco (5 pts), 2 Team Al Mouj, Muscat (9), 3 Team Renaissance (11.5), 4 Team Zain (14.5), 5 Adelasia di Torres (23), 6 Bienne Voile (26.5), 7 Team Averda (27), 8 DB Schenker (27.5).