Defending champion EFG Bank Monaco will hope to defend its Sailing Arabia-The Tour (SATT) crown after it confirmed its entry for the forthcoming offshore race, which begins from Muscat on February 15.

The SATT is expected to conclude in Manama, Bahrain on February 28.

EFG Bank Monaco will be once again led by one of France’s most respected offshore sailors, Sidney Gavignet, and the crew comprises a good mix of youth and experience with three young Omani sailors on board.

Ireland’s leading offshore sailor Damian Foxall will be Gavignet’s key teammate and the duo will be joined by Oman’s Abdul Rahman al Mashari, Abdallah al Shukaili and Nasser al Marzuqi. Also joining the crew will be Spanish veteran Alex Pella and French navigator Fabien Delahaye.

Foxall has completed an astonishing 350,000 nautical miles on the race track, including seven round the world races and 19 trans-Atlantic races. He was also part of the Oman Sail’s Musandam-Oman Sail crew that set the world record during the 2014 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, which comprised Gavignet, Jan Dekker and three Omani sailors – Fahad al Hasni, Sami al Shukaili, Yassir al Rahbi.

Pella will make his debut in the SATT after having a successful run at the Route du Rhum regatta where he won in Class 40.

Gavignet said, “It is good to change the route as it offers more challenge. Compared to last year, my crew has a lot more experience doing offshore races and that gives us an advantage. The new route, which features more upwind sailing will be more tactical and also harder physically for the teams but that should favour us because of our offshore experience. The harder the route, the better it is for us”.

“As usual, it is a pretty intense programme but we have a good team and are in the fray to win the title,” he said.

“With the competitors all sailing in identical Farr30 boats, it is going to be a tough race. A good fleet of 11 boats racing offshore is a bit special. With more local teams from the region entering the fray, it underlines the progress made by the Tour over the past few years,” said Gavignet.