The all-student amateur team from The Netherlands – TU Delft Challenge – hopes to better its third-place finish last year at the 2015 EFG Sailing Arabia-The Tour (SATT), which begins from Muscat on February 15.

TU Delft Challenge impressed last year with a podium finish in only its second attempt after claiming a fourth-place on its debut in 2013.

Led by new skipper Wouter Sonnema, a 20 year old civil engineering student, who took part last year as a crew member, the team has high hopes of improving on its past performances.

Sonnema said, “EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is the highlight of the year for TU Delft Challenge. We go to regatta with an aim to win every race we start. We have good speeds downwind and our tactics upwind are good.”

The team has a new look this year with student members, Jelger Rozendaal (18) and Daan Geldermans (21) joining the team after impressing in selection trials.

Sonnema is confident that the strong team spirit they have formed will pay dividends.

Professional sailor, Koen van Esch, has also joined the team as coach and has spent many hours training in light airs to make sure the team is ready to challenge some of the world’s best sailors.

A larger field of 11 teams featuring the best sailing talent in the GCC and elite international sailors take on the intense challenge of a new 760-nautical mile course.

Kicking off in Muscat on February 15, the new course presents a different challenge to the teams, which must develop new tactics to adapt to the conditions.

After the opening stage, teams will set sail for Ras Al Khaimah, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, in UAE, as well as Qatar before finishing in Bahrain. All will race in identical Farr 30 boats that ensure sailing skill is the deciding factor.

The young sailors from TU Delft Challenge have been competing in Farr 30 championship races all year and narrowly missed out on a top ten place at the Farr 30 World Championships last September.

“With 11 teams participating this year, an increase of five from last year, it is a significant progress for SATT,” said Sonnema.

TU Delft Challenge student sailing project was launched in 2003 and it participated in the Tour de France á la Voile till 2012. In the second half of 2012 the team decided to debut in SATT in 2013. The SATT was launched in 2011 as the region’s equivalent of the world-famous Tour de France a Voile.

SOURCE: Muscat Daily