ROLEX MIDDLE SEA RACE: MUSANDAM-OMAN SAIL AIMS FOR WINNING DEBUT

Skipper Sidney Gavignet and his Oman Sail’s record-breaking crew on the MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail will hope to end their 2015 season with a flourish as they bid to claim line honours on their debut in the 2015 Rolex Middle Sea Race, which begins in Valletta, Malta on October 17.

Frenchman Gavignet and his crew are expected to face a tough challenge from Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 Phaedo3 and Peter Aschenbrenner’s Paradox in the 606 nautical-mile Mediterranean classic.

Prior to the start in Valletta, Musandam-Oman Sail will participate at the annual Barcolana Regatta in Trieste, Italy this weekend.

For the Rolex Middle Sea Race, Gavignet has selected four Omanis to help him try to win line honours.

Two of them, Fahad al Hasni and Sami al Shukaili, are already regulars with the MOD70 after being part of the Oman Sail crew that smashed the Round Britain and Ireland record last year and the Round Ireland record earlier this year.

However, Ali al Balushi and Nasser al Mashari are not used to the boat though their experience in the Extreme 40 class, representing The Wave, Muscat and Oman Air in the Extreme Sailing Series, will stand them in good stead for their offshore multihull adventure.

“We have to take revenge on Phaedo, they had beaten us in the Rolex Fastnet Race. We’ll be looking to correct this result,” said Gavignet, who will also have MOD70 regular Damian Foxall from Ireland on board.

Gavignet added, “Our aim otherwise is to use our Oman Sail flagship Musandam-Oman Sail to promote the sultanate and give everyone involved, both crew and guests, some fantastic memories.”

Oman’s Laser sailor Hussain al Jabri and Mohammed al Balushi, a sailing instructor, recently joined Gavignet’s crew as part of Oman Sail’s plan to nurture offshore talent and

despite some challenging conditions at sea, they emerged from their first ocean voyage with flying colours recently.

“We started with a trip from Lorient to Montpellier in France, but we have now done over 3,200km with Hussain and Mohammed, who are quite used to the boat,” said Gavignet.

“They had a tough time because we had to cross the Bay of Biscay and the wind blew at around 100km an hour, so it was a very good non-racing experience and they learned a lot. Our regular guys Fahad, Shukaili and Yasser al Rahbi were also with us and were able to take responsibility.”

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club. Over 100 yachts have so far entered the race.

The 36th edition of the race has attracted competitors from at least 22 different countries from all over the world.

From the Grand Harbour in Valletta, the race will feature breathtaking scenery along its course, taking competitors close to a number of stunning islands around Sicily and Malta, before returning to the Royal Malta Yacht Club in Marsamxett Harbour.

Since the first race in 1968, the regatta has attracted a wide variety of competitors and yachts and this year is no different.World champions and professional sailors from the Volvo Ocean Race and America’s Cup will be taking part, as well as Corinthian sailors.

Last year proved one of the toughest in the history of the race as contestants faced storm winds across the race course in the latter part of the regatta.

Lee Satariano’s J/122 Artie was the overall winner in 2014.