Saturday, 25 June 2011

Tour de France à la Voile : Oman's BAE Systems all set

M34 BAE Systems (Oman). Image copyright Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images.

by Mohammed Al Eissa

Oman Sail’s offshore racing team, BAE Systems, is in the final preparations for the forthcoming Tour de France à la Voile (TDV) which starts on Saturday 25 June in Dunkerque, northern France. The TDV is one of the biggest events in the French sailing calendar, and one of the world’s most challenging races.

Oman crew in action. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images.

Oman Sail will compete against 15 world class international teams, in the M34 class, a new class of boat for the 2011 TDV. The TDV is one of France’s most prestigious offshore sailing events, which takes in 12 stops, covering 1000 miles of inshore and offshore routes, with racing taking place onboard identical boats. The route takes in the length of France before finally finishing on the 25 July in La Seyne sur Mer in the Mediterranean.

In preparation for the TDV, the Omani offshore team have been competing in a number of regatta’s , including the inaugural Sailing Arabia The Tour – an event based on the format of the Tour de France à la Voile which saw six teams racing around the Arabian Gulf in February this year. The team has also competed in a number of regatta’s in France, which has seen them secure a number of solid performances, securing a ninth place at the the La Trinité sur Mer during the Spi Ouest France, before going on to claim victory at the and the Grand Prix of Douarnenez.

Omani crew member Yassir in action. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images.

As part of the training programme for the Omani recruits, this year has also seen a 100% Omani crew represent the Sultanate in the West for the first time, a huge milestone in Omani’s Sail’s history, when Oman Sail entered two boats into the Grand Prix de l’Ecole Navale which took place at the end of May, in Brest, West France.

The team's coach, Alistair Moore, commented:

"The event in Brest was a very important step for the team and a huge achievement for Oman Sail. The ultimate goal is to have a 100% Omani team competing in major events in Europe, such as the TDV, and this means we are a step closer to that. The event was really valuable preparation for the TDV, and gave the Omani sailors the opportunity to really test their maneuvers, tactics and motivation. We can see the significant progress that is being made."

The most recent test for the team came at Normandy Sailing Week in early June, where the team sustained damage to the boats mast after strong winds during an offshore race, resulting in the team missing the final round of races. Despite this the BAE Systems team went on the finish in fifth position.

Oman's BAE Systems M34 racing. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images.

This is the second year Oman Sail has competed in the TDV, having secured an impressive fifth place finish in 2010. For this latest addition, French skipper Cédric Pouligny will be the man in charge of the boat, with a crew that is comprised of 50% Omani sailors - a testament to the progress made by Oman Sail and the dedication of the Omani recruits.

In addition to their support of the Oman Sail offshore team, BAE Systems are also committed to developing young Omani talents through their sponsorship of Oman Sail’s Try Sailing, a programme which has already given over 2,000 young Omanis the opportunity to get out on the water and learn to sail.

Crew List

Omani Crew

Abdullah Al Farsi (Oman)
Nawaf Al Gheedani (Oman)
Yassir Al Rahbi (Oman)
Ali Al Balushi (Oman)
Mohammed Al Ghailani (Oman)
Fahad Al Hasni (Oman)
Ahmed Al Ma‘amari (Oman)

International Crew
Cédric Pouligny (France)
Gérald Véniard (France)
Nicolas Bérenger (France)
Alexandre Pallu de la Barrière (France)
Leigh McMillan (GB)
Shane Hugues (IRL)
Nick Blake (IRL)

Oman Sail
Tour de France à la Voile