x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Plenty to be decided on Sailing Arabia's final leg

The fleet heads into its final leg across the Arabian Gulf to Bahrain with Courrier Dunkerque in first place, but just one point separates the boats in second and fifth.

The Sailing Arabia fleet had to contend with massive container ships, fishing nets and winds generating waves over four metres tall as they raced to Massanah, Oman to complete the fifth leg of The Tour.
The Sailing Arabia fleet had to contend with massive container ships, fishing nets and winds generating waves over four metres tall as they raced to Massanah, Oman to complete the fifth leg of The Tour.

Monday's final leg of Sailing Arabia – The Tour may constitute the coronation of the runaway leaders Courrier Dunkerque but there is still plenty at stake, with one point separating the teams in second and third, and fourth and fifth.

The nine-strong fleet embarks this morning on a short sprint along the coast to The Wave, Muscat for the sixth and final leg of the traverse across the Arabian Gulf from Bahrain in 15 days.

All teams have disregarded their worst race result, meaning despite the third-place finish in Leg 5, Courrier Dunkerque technically still have a clean slate.

Yet just one point separates third-placed Team BAE Systems from second-placed Team Commercial Bank, while the battle for fourth and fifth is just as intense with a solitary point separating the all-Omani teams of Al Thuraya BankMuscat and Team Renaissance.

Al Thuraya BankMuscat, the competition's only all-female team team, will be buoyed by their fourth-place finish in Mussanah, which was marked by a celebration with friends and family who waited on the dock to greet the women in the port they used as their training base for the tour.

"I am so happy to be here and to have my family welcome me," crew member Raya Al Habsi said after the 135-mile leg from Dibba. "This was probably the hardest leg but knowing they would be waiting for me when I arrived made me want to keep sailing to them."

The penultimate leg was a slow upwind battle from start to finish, with waves over four metres high, a wall of 200 container ships and fishing nets making it by far the most unpredictable leg to date.

"The ships were huge - they completely blocked the wind," said Qassim Abdelrazaq, the Team Bahrain skipper. "It was a case of trying to find the best route through so you could keep moving. It was an incredible sight."

The French skippered boats of Team Commercialbank and Team BAE Systems, and Courrier Dunkerque, adapted the quickest, finishing in the podium positions, yet Daniel Souben, the Courrier Dunkerque skipper, was disappointed to finish only third.

"It was a difficult leg," Souben said. "We are disappointed to finish the leg early because we thought there was more wind coming in, so we could have regained places. We feel we'll have had good races the rest of the legs and a very good Tour."

Al Thuraya BankMuscat were not far behind in fourth and Team Kingdom of Saudi Arabia secured sixth spot, their best Tour finish after holding a strong position mid-fleet from start to finish.

* Compiled by The National staff