Tour de France a la Voile 2017: Diam 24 team eyes glory in France
Oman Sail's Diam 24 team has its sights fixed firmly on a podium finish in the Tour de France a la Voile (TDV) as it prepares to go into battle in the 2017 European season opener on Thursday.
The crew will be looking to come fast out of the blocks at the Grand Prix Atlantique, a three-day regatta in Pornichet, France, which kick-starts a busy summer schedule of racing.
The event, which features coastal racing, will be the first big test of 2017 for the team as they go up against stiff competition from some of the hottest crews on the Diam 24 one-design trimaran circuit.
French sailing star Thierry Douillard is back as the skipper of the Omani-flagged boat after a successful 2016 season that saw him take Oman Sail's entry to a respectable fifth-place finish in the TDV, a coastal race taking in nine French cities that is the pinnacle of the season.
British sailor Stevie Morrison, a former Olympic sailor and Douillard's 2016 co-skipper, returns to take on helming duties, while new draft Mathieu Richard, a former match racing world champion, will be responsible for navigation and tactics.
Oman Sail's crew will also welcome back Omani sailing talents Ali al Balushi and Abdulrahman al Mashari, integral members of the 2016 line-up, as trimmers.
The team has joined up with eight other crews in France to practise ahead of the Grand Prix Atlantique.
The regatta will give the Oman Sail teams an idea of how competitive they are among the fleet, which will include 2016 TDV winner Lorina Limonade and a new entry from French Olympian Billy Besson.