Monday 18 May 2015

ArMen Race : Good racing for all

by Anne Hinton

The 2015 ArMen Race from La Trinite sur Mer started a day late this year due to a storm in Brittany on Thursday 14th May for which a Figaro sailor Yoann Richomme who went training from Port La Foret reported a steady 31 knots with gusts up to 47 knots

Racing finally got underway at 8AM on 15th May with three different courses for competitors depending on size/speed of boat: the MOD70 Oman Sail skippered by Roland Jourdain together with the IMOCAs and Multi50s had the longest course but nonetheless the Omani crew once again achieved the line honours victory as with the previous year

The Omanis found the ArMen Race this year to be a walk in the park after achieving boatspeeds over 30 knots at the Grand Prix Guyader earlier this month and experiencing winds of up to 38 knots on their subsequent Round Ireland Record and described the ArMen Race as just like a training session

The two IMOCAs had a good battle with Paul Meilhat racing SMA (the former MACIF of Francois Gabart) with Michel Desjoyeaux on board finally getting the better of Tanguy de Lamotte in Initiatives Coeur despite tricky current and wave conditions

In the Multi50s the close contest between FenetreA Prysmian with Giancarlo Pedote joining Erwan Le Roux and crew in practice for the Transat Jacques Vabre later this year and Arkema of Lalou Roucayrol was decided in favour of the former and much discussion of tactics still ongoing between the two teams after the prizegiving

In the Mini class Arkema was victorious with Quentin Vlamnyck while Solidaires en Peloton took the Class 40s with her skipper commenting that there had been slightly less competition in that class than with the eight boats at Grand Prix Guyader earlier in the month

Amidst the other classes a much appreciated competitor was one of the Eric Tabarly boats Pen Duick III

Race officer Yves Le Blevec (who is one of those with funding for a future large multi for  planetary
records) is to be congratulated on combining with his team to provide excellent racing for all in this fifth edition of the race at the end of a hectic session for him as he was also race officer for the Mini en Mai the previous week which racing also had to be modified due to storms in the Bay of Biscay

The Unseen Hand – Oman Sail’s Boatbuilders

Article compiled from interviews with Phil Rivett and Mohammed Al Shikely in Lorient in 2013, together with other material supplied by Oman Sail and their website

Phil Rivett, Oman Sail's Head Boatbuilder. Image copyright Xaume Olleros for Red Bull Content Pool/Extreme Sailing Series

by Anne Hinton

The unseen workers at any sailing event are often those who do the hardest and most crucial work: the boatbuilders. Oman Sail’s training programme includes this aspect of the sport of sailing, as well as the on-the-water, sailing.

Head Boatbuilder with Oman Sail is Phil Rivett, 33, who hails from Australia. Phil is very friendly and approachable, and extremely good at explaining how to do things and then leaving people to try the task for themselves and learn from any mistakes they make, and then patiently going over any issues, all of which provides the best possible learning environment. One example that I saw was Phil explaining about when stitching is and isn’t needed when splicing ropes and then leaving the Omani trainee boatbuilders to go ahead and do it alone and join the ropes.

Phil Rivett’s immense experience with boatbuilding includes the around-the-world campaigns of Ellen MacArthur and Emma Richards, plus the Volvo Ocean Race ABN Amro and Ericsson yachts, the Swedish America’s Cup Victory challenger and Al Busaidi’s circumnavigation; the first recorded by an Omani sailor.

Phil Rivett. Image copyright Lloyd Images/Oman Sail

Between supporting the Extreme 40 programme, Phil then moved to looking after the A100 Oman Air Majan, then the MOD70, Musandam, for the 2012 and 2013 racing around Europe and then the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre to Brazil last November, as well as carrying out some work on the M34 for the Tour de France à la Voile campaign. There being two Oman Sail-run Extreme 40s on the Extreme Sailing Series again this year, with The Wave Muscat and Oman Air, Phil has moved into supporting this circuit once more. Phil isn’t bothered about going sailing himself; he justs loves working on boats and ensuring that they are in excellent condition for the sailors to race to victory. “We are a team,” points out Loik, “and each and every one of us has a key role to play.”

In 2013 the Oman Sail boatbuilding team in Lorient, the European HQ of Oman Sail, consisted of:
  • Phil Rivett, Head Boatbuilder, who has extensive experience from large solo around-the-world campaigns and as boatbuilder for winning Volvo Ocean Race teams
  • French multihull sailor Loik Gallon (boat captain of Musandam, the MOD70) who was with international campaigns including Ellen MacArthur’s and has both great technical skills and an in-depth knowledge of measurement and the racing rules,
  • some temporary local hired help, including a boat builder from the 2012 Tour de France à la Voile-winning TPM Coych, and
  • two Oman Sail trainee boatbuilders, Mohammed Al Shikely (affectionatly known as TechMo within the team) and Sulaiman Al Manji, with occasional visits from other Omani trainees.
In addition, specialists were brought in for specific tasks, such as ultrasounding the MOD70, or for changing the sponsorship signage. Some of this work is also done by the boatbuilding team. Although it may sound easy, putting on sponsorship stickers, with the need to line everything up, ensure that there are no air bubbles, and that there is solid adherence, is actually a very tricky task.

Mohammed Al Shikely. Image copyright Lloyd Images/Oman Sail

In 2013, Mohammed was in his fifth year with Oman Sail. “I first worked on the large trimaran [A100] Musandam – the first one – and now I am working on another Musandam, the MOD70. I worked on the first Musandam for sixth months and after that on Majan for six months. After Majan, I did the Extreme 40s for three years. In this, my fifth year, I am working on Musandam [the MOD70].”

Prior to coming to Oman Sail, Mohammed studied in college for a year and learnt English. He was doing a technology course. When the chance to work with Oman Sail came up, he left college immediately! Asked what he would have done if the chance to work with Oman Sail had not come along, Mohammed replied “Business – working for the economy”; very different – working with figures and talking to people, whereas the boat work is technology-based and practical.
Mohammed’s favourite boat is the Extreme 40, because of the intense action in the racing in this class. “It is exciting! You know why? Because you do a small race in the Extreme 40 and maybe crash the boat, or anything, so that’s exciting for me. I like it.” Crashing the boat makes for more glassfibre work for the boatbuilders!

Sulaiman Al Manji returns ashore from scrubbing the bottom of the MOD70 Musandam. Image copyright Lloyd Images/Oman Sail

In 2013 there were three Omani trainee boatbuilders who travelled and another three or four based in Oman. “I went back to Oman [in 2013] for an Extreme 40 refit,” said Phil. “We had to make moulds, so it was interesting to show the trainees a different side to boatbuilding, and not just do things over night as we fix the boats in the fleet racing [for the Extreme Sailing Series]. Also, the boys are learning painting skills, so just developing all sides. We will send the boys to technical college shortly to start learning the theory and that helps them as well.

There has been a lot of on the job training. We have some pretty amazing boats. We’ve got a couple of Extreme 40s, and the MOD which is the flagship of the fleet. They are all different boats, so a lot of the skill set is around the boats. There are a lot of different things to do on an MOD70,” says Phil.

There are cleans and check-ups with the Extreme 40s too [cleaning the boat thoroughly is used as a means to check for items that need to be repaired], so there are so many different things, the winch system on the boat, the hydraulic system, ropes, glassfibre work, and the structure, so it’s a bit of everything on a bigger vessel. Just making sure they do the things once, not twice.” At present the Omani trainee boatbuilders are doing things on a boat on an as-needed basis. The emphasis is very much on only doing things once, and doing them well, rather than having to repeat the work.

Loik Gallon, Boat Captain with Oman Sail. Image copyright Lloyd Images/Oman Sail

While Oman Sail will always need boatbuilders, the idea is to train up the Omanis so that they can work in boatbuilding teams all over the world. “One of our boys back in Oman got requested for one of the teams [Artemis] on the RC44 circuit. That is a great achievement, for him and myself. Hilal al Zadjali had been with the company for three years. He started working on the structure and then we moved him to the technical side of things. He showed initiative and we wanted to give him a bigger skill set and help him, so it progressed from there.

Eventually the guys will be able to go to other teams. There are three guys who could potentially go to the Volvo already. They would be very green, but in terms of the things they need to know, they are already halfway there.”

The Omani boatbuilders have a variety of different backgrounds. “Mohammed was 22 when he joined us,” said Phil. “He was in his local village looking after his family and the great thing about the Omani culture is that they do miss their family. Hilal is very practical. He was very young. He came straight out of school.”

Prior to coming to Oman Sail, Mohammed studied in college for a year and learnt English. He was doing a technology course. When the chance to work with Oman Sail came up, he left college immediately! Asked what he would have done if the chance to work with Oman Sail had not come along, Mohammed replied “Business – working for the economy”; very different – working with figures and talking to people, whereas the boat work is technology-based and practical.

The Omanis are clearly greatly enjoying their work learning boatbuilding, and the exemplary Oman Sail training programme is developing skills in Omanis throughout the spectrum of the sailing world, which will enable the industry to build up in Oman; a firm base for the international development of Oman and Omanis through the sport of sailing, while broadening involvement in sailing throughout the country and the Arabian peninsular.