x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Sailing Arabia: AISM Dubai make in-port race sweep as focus moves to UAE

Dubai crew still third behind BAE Systems and EFG Bank after winning all three races in Qatar.

The fleet encountered good wind conditions in Qatar and will set sail for Abu Dhabi today. Courtesy Lloyd Images
The fleet encountered good wind conditions in Qatar and will set sail for Abu Dhabi today. Courtesy Lloyd Images

The nine crews competing in the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia - The Tour will set sail for Abu Dhabi on Leg 2 today after three in-port races in Qatar, all of them won by Dubai's AISM crew.

Bertrand Pace, the AISM captain, is returning to compete in the Gulf's longest sailboat race for a third time, hoping to repeat his first place success of 2011.

"I like the mixture of inshore and offshore - it is good for us," said the former America's Cup helmsman. "This time of year we don't have that much sailing we can do [in Europe] so this is good practice for us. It is a perfect two weeks."

Having such a lengthy background sailing the Farr 30 designs is just one reason AISM are doing so well. Pace also likes the smaller nine boat fleet.

"In these wind conditions it is very technical and we know how to use the boat, so I am not surprised that we have good speed. We started OK and with Cedric [Chateau] we have good tactics. When you have the speed, you sail well and start well, most of the time you will be in the top of the fleet."

The Cedric Pouligny-skippered BAE Systems, the winner of the opening leg from Bahrain to Doha, scored a 4-2-4 yesterday in the three in-port races leaving them just ahead of EFG Bank and AISM in the overall standings.

"We raced well today," said BAE's Omani crewman, Ali Al Balushi.

Despite celebrating his 22nd birthday yesterday, Al Balushi has a long track record - having competed in the last three editions of Sailing Arabia and in the Tour de France a la Voile.

"We are very happy to be in Qatar. It is a very nice place, with friendly people - it feels like Oman," said Al Balushi.

EFG Bank, from Monaco, scored a 3-3-2 yesterday. "Today was great," said the skipper Sidney Gavignet.

"Conditions for us were ideal: just enough wind, flat sea, sun - all nice. The organisation did a good job to get three races in as well. We had a consistent day, we didn't win, but I am pleased. There is some competitive racing in the top half of the fleet. We are not doing too badly for a team that is still discovering the boat."

While the male crews were told yesterday they had to limit their number to six (some were sailing with seven) this did not affect EFG Bank greatly as among their number they have Sami Al Shukaili, a bodybuilder.

As the crewman Fahad Al Hasni pointed out of his teammate and his tree trunk-sized arms: "Sometimes he breaks the sails - he goes very hard."

For Dee Caffari and her all-female crew on Al-Thuraya Bank Muscat it was a difficult day and they struggled with their manoeuvring. "This really was a practice day for us," Caffari said.

The Abu Dhabi crew, captained by Adil Khalid, have struggled so far. After finishing eighth in Leg 1, they recorded 7-8-8 yesterday and will hope for a change in fortunes in Leg 2, which leaves Qatar at 1pm UAE time today. Leg 2 is over 160 nautical miles and the teams are expected to arrive at Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club on Friday.

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