Oman Sail M34. Image copyright Oman Sail/Lloyd Images
by Oman Sail media
Oman Sail’s multinational race squad, skippered by Sidney Gavignet and tasked with racing the M34 in the Tour de France a la Voile and the Sultanate of Oman’s flagship MOD70 this season, will line up on the start line of Spi Ouest France Intermarché on Thursday for a weekend of racing on the M34 and J80 in La Trinite-sur-Mer.
Sidney will skipper the Oman Sail M34 for its first outing this season and will call tactics, while fellow Frenchman Damien Iehl will helm, Shane Hughes (IRL) will trim the mainsail, Gilles Favennec (FRA) will be on headsail duty, Mohammed Al Mujaini (OMA) will run the pit, Sebastien Rogues (FRA) will trim the spinnaker and Thomas Ruyant (FRA) will do bow.
The event will be a good shakedown for the new crew and a first opportunity to race against 10 of the M34s currently being campaigned, including 2013 Spi Ouest winner, Communauté Urbaine de Dunkerque (Daniel Souben), Groupama (Fabien Henry, who has also won Spi Ouest) and Bretagne Crédit Mutuel (Nicolas Troussel).
|Sidney Gavignet. Image copyright Oman Sail/Lloyd Images|
“Our goal with Spi Ouest is to train for the Tour de France a la Voile,” explained Sidney. “One of the main focuses will be for Damien Iehl and I to work on our communication. We do not have a performance target for this event as it is too soon for that so our main objectives are to focus on working together, boat handling and close quarters racing – Spi Ouest is an ideal platform for that.”
The M34 circuit is a key training platform for the Oman Sail development programme and this year the pioneering national initiative that uses the power of sport to contribute to the development of the Omani people has taken a further step and will be campaigning a J80 for Spi Ouest crewed by a 100% Omani team.
“We have broad objectives for the wider race squad for 2014, and those crewmembers that aren’t racing the M34 for Spi Ouest, are racing a J80 as part of a 100% Omani crew, helmed by Fahad Al Hasni who usually trims the headsail on the M34 and has also crewed the MOD70. Taking on this role will teach him about the volume of information that the helmsman needs from the trimmers for example and will give him a good grounding of information to take forward for the rest of the season.
“The Omani crew members sailing on the M34 and J80 at Spi Ouest are amongst some of the best sailors from the Oman Sail project and we will be running a crew rotation policy on the M34 and MOD70 throughout the season in order to grow their ability further. We also aim to strengthen this team outside of sailing, we will train together as a squad every morning and after racing each day at Spi Ouest the two crews will debrief and discuss boat handling, tactics and the weather – this is when they learn the most” said Sidney.
Mohammed Al Mujaini, crew on board the M34 for Spi Ouest has been sailing the boat for two years and has raced Sailing Arabia-The Tour and Tour de France a la Voile – he is a fast learner and the more he learns the greater his ambitions: “Racing alongside such experienced professional sailors is a huge challenge and a learning curve for us, but it is also a real source of inspiration for the young Omanis back home to see us evolve and grow in experience through racing against teams like Groupama and Dunkerque,” he explained. “This year we have a new crew configuration on the M34 and have had just two weeks before Spi Ouest, we will be working hard on training towards the Tour de France a la Voile and hoping to do well.”
The Oman Sail J80 crew are equally motivated ahead of their first European regatta as an all-Omani team – they will be racing in the biggest fleet of the event with over a hundred boats expected on the start line. Nasser Al Mashari, who races on the Oman Sail Extreme Sailing defending champion The Wave, Muscat – recent winner of Act 2 in Muscat, will be trimming the mainsail and calling tactics on the J80: “It’s my first time on these boats, but I am learning quickly,” he said. “After a week’s training we are communicating well onboard – we speak a mixture of Arabic and English, but it is going well! It’s a huge opportunity for us to race this boat and it will be my first time racing in such a big fleet. I am excited to be taking such a big step forward in my career thanks to Oman Sail and to be demonstrating to the young sailors in Oman that if you work hard, you can achieve – especially this year as we will be rotating onto different boats in the Oman Sail fleet and will learn to perform whatever the platform. It’s very motivating.”
Oman Sail's female M34 team. Image copyright Oman Sail/Lloyd Images
One J80 will stand out from the 100-strong fleet in La Trinite: Al Thuraya Bank Muscat, the Oman Sail all-female campaign is returning to Europe for its second year and includes British Olympic sailor Mary Rook and four sailors from the fledgling Oman Sail Women’s Sailing Programme (WSP), including Raiya Al Habsi, Rajaa Al Uwaisi, Ibtisam Al Salmi and Nashwa Al Kindi. The WSP was created in 2011 to offer equal opportunity to Omani women in sailing and in the short period since its inception, Raiya Al Habsi has experienced sailing a MOD70 in the Fastnet, Rajaa has skippered a boat for two seasons and Nashwa who is one of the sailing school instructors became the first Arab woman to sail an Ocean passage alongside Hilary Lister from India to Oman. Rajaa Al Uwaisi, skipper and helmswoman, and an inaugural member of the WSP comments on the upcoming event: “My overall goal is to grow as a sailor, to keep learning and to become more rounded and my immediate goal at Spi Ouest is to improve my tactical ability. This will be my second Spi Ouest and I am tremendously proud to represent my country – we have been training on dinghies in Oman and working on our physical strength ahead of the European circuit. It is a huge opportunity to be able to compete in Europe again and I hope we will set a good example to young Omani girls who want to sail.”
Oman Sail Elite Sailing Squad Summer Programme 2014
Oman Sail race squad for Spi Ouest
M34 – Spi Ouest
- Sidney Gavignet (FRA)
- Damien Iehl (FRA)
- Shane Hughes (IRL)
- Gilles Favennec (FRA)
- Mohammed Al Mujaini (OMA)
- Sebastien Rogues (FRA)
- Thomas Ruyant (FRA)
J80 – male – Spi Ouest
- Fahad Al Hasni (OMA)
- Nasser Al Mashari (OMA)
- Ali Al Balushi (OMA)
- Sami Al Shukily (OMA)
J80 – female – Spi Ouest
- Rajaa Al Uwaisi (OMA)
- Mary Rook (GBR)
- Raiya Al Habsi (OMA)
- Ibtisam Al Salmi (OMA)
- Nashwa Al Kindi (OMA)