Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Oman Sail's M34 Wins Grand Prix Guyader at Douarenez, France

British Olympian Leigh Macmillan makes change of tack

Oman Sail's M34 competing at Grand Prix Guyader. Image copyright François Van Malleghem.

by Nicky Moore

Oman Sail have secured their latest triumph in the international sailing arena, having claimed victory in the Grand Prix Guyader on Sunday 8th May. The team faced tough competition during the week from an experienced international fleet, as racing took place over three days on the west coast of France. A new addition to the Oman Sail team this year is Britain’s Olympic Tornado sailor Leigh MacMillan, who is looking to make his mark on the offshore sailing scene.

10 races took place over the three days, on the M34, the new class of boat for the 2011 Tour de France à la Voile (TDV). The Oman Sail team, skippered by French sailing talent Cedric Pouligny, with MacMillan calling the tactics, got their regatta off to a strong start when racing began on Friday (6th May). It was clear the team were a real contender for the overall regatta victory from the start, and by the end of day two, when they secured two race wins, they had extended there overall lead on the fleet.

The final day of racing took place under blue skies, but the team faced their toughest day on the water with the winds steadily growing up to 18 knots and providing challenging sailing conditions. Two second place finishes and a third was enough for the team to reign supreme, claiming victory ahead of the second placed Ile de France team.

Oman Sail's M34 competing at Grand Prix Guyader. Image copyright François Van Malleghem.

For MacMillan, who is better know for his talents as a dinghy sailor and who helmed the Ecover Extreme 40 to a third place finish in the 2010 Extreme Sailing Series, working with Oman Sail’s offshore team provides an exciting new challenge for him. He commented:
“It has been a pretty big shift for me, but it was a conscience decision I made and I have been phasing in over a period of time, for example in 2010 I took part in the Caribbean 600 Race. I was really keen to build on my offshore sailing experience and the opportunity to work with Oman Sail came at a perfect time for me.”

“The event in Douarnenez was blinding for us! Although we were only a six boat fleet, four of those boats beat us two weeks ago (at the Spi Ouest France) so, after that we had to seriously assess our weaknesses and as a result we have seen real progress as a team. We are really happy with the way the event went and we won with a race to spare.”

Leigh Macmillan helming (right) with Will Howden on the Extreme 40 ECOVER in 2010. Image copyright Anne Hinton - all rights reserved.

Leigh, who also works with Oman Sail as coach to their Extreme 40’s Oman Air and The Wave, Muscat, has been chosen by Cedric to call tactics during the inshore races in the upcoming Tour de France à la Voile (TDV), and will also provide support as Trimmer and second helm during the offshore legs for the Oman Sail entry. Oman Sail sailed their way to a fifth place finish in the 2010 TDV and have since devised an intensive training programme for their offshore fleet, with the ultimate goal of claiming victory in the 2011 TDV, which starts on the 24th June 2011.

The next event on the teams training calendar is the Grand Prix de l’Ecole Navale, which begins at the end of May in Brest, West France. For Oman Sail, the event in France will mark a huge landmark in their history, as this will be the first time a 100% Omani crew will represent the Sultanate in the West. Leigh commented:
“There are seven Omani guys who are part of this team and it is great to sail with them and be part of helping them learn more about these boats. I have been really impressed by everyone onboard during this event, they are so focused and have clear goals for what they want to achieve. We rotate the Omani sailors so they all get a chance to sail and in different positions on the boat so they can find the position that suits them best.”

Oman Sail are working hard to stake their claim on the international offshore sailing circuit, and earlier this year successfully hosted the inaugural Sailing Arabia – The Tour, an event based on the format of the Tour de France à la Voile which saw six Farr 30’s sail around the Arabian Coast.

Note from SailRaceWin: For an interview with Will Howden, Leigh Macmillan's partner in the Tornado for the Qingdao Olympics, carried out earlier in 2011, click here

Oman Sail
Grand Prix Guyader - Societe des Regates de Douarenez