The flagship boat of the Sultanate, Musandam-Oman Sail, supported by the Ministry of Tourism and skippered by well-known French offshore sailor, Sidney Gavignet, is to line up against 10 other giant multihulls in the “Ultime Class” on the start line of the Route du Rhum on November 2nd. Oman Sail’s skipper will be closely flanked throughout his preparations in St. Malo by new recruit to the MOD sailing programme Abdul Rahman Al Mashari, and regulars Fahad Al Hasni and Mohsin Al Busaidi.
The Route du Rhum, known as THE ultimate single-handed race, takes the 90-strong fleet 4,471 nautical miles across the Bay of Biscay – a perilous stretch of water – then west across the Atlantic Ocean to the island of Guadeloupe. The Ministry and Oman Sail see the event, not only as a sporting challenge, but as a platform to share the country’s beauty with over a million visitors to the Route du Rhum regatta village in St Malo, through the Visit Oman – Tourism Pavilion.
“The Ministry of Tourism is proud to support Musandam-Oman Sail, Oman Sail's MOD70, for the Route du Rhum, one of France's greatest offshore races. The giant multihull is proudly Omani and carries our flag and message of welcome to a global audience,” said Her Excellency Maitha bint Saif Al Mahrouqi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism of Oman and Chairwoman of Oman Sail, adding her pleasure to the campaign.
“Through the relationship with Oman Sail and our participation in international events throughout the season, in Germany, the UK and France, we seek to connect with the high-end tourist that attends and follows these elite sailing events and to impart what Oman has to offer in terms of natural beauty and culture.
“With a direct flight from Paris to Muscat with Oman Air, the French tourist is very important to us and we look forward to raising awareness of our country's attractions through our participation in the Route du Rhum,” she concluded.
This will be Oman’s second entry to the legendary race from St. Malo, France, to Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, their first in 2010 ended abruptly with a breakage in the early stages, but Sidney Gavignet who has thousands of offshore miles under his belt, including most recently setting a new Round Britain and Ireland World Record with a 50% Omani crew for the first time – is eager to have another go and proud to be representing Oman again: “The last edition for me remains an amazing memory and to have a chance to do it again in the colours of Oman is a great honour – we have achieved a huge amount already with our Omani sail training programme onboard the MOD70 and I hope this next challenge will provide further inspiration. For me, growing up sailing, the Route du Rhum was always THE race that made me dream.”
And the objective is that it will also make young Omani sailors dream. As Oman Sail CEO, David Graham, explains: “The Musandam-Oman Sail MOD70 campaign is the pinnacle of the Oman Sail sailing development programme. We are very proud to be competing in the Route du Rhum, such an important benchmark event in France, under Omani colours. Racing the Route du Rhum will encourage and inspire our young Omani sailors to aim high with their ambitions and competing in such a prestigious offshore event will help us with our sailing awareness campaign in Oman.”
With a month away to the kick-off of the race in St Malo, the Musandam-Oman Sail is in the training phase. Preparations continue apace and the team had an opportunity to measure itself for the first time in competition last week at the Azimut Challenge in Lorient, France, finishing second overall in the “Ultimes” Class. Racing single-handed gives the solo skipper a chance to test boat-handling techniques, systems and adaptations made to the 70ft trimaran by the mixed Omani and International shore team under the pressure of competition. After a 12-hour sprint and exchanging leads throughout the night with fellow-Frenchman, Sebastien Josse, a regular rival on the MOD70, Sidney and the shore team were satisfied with progress and looking forward to his next session.
“It was very close throughout the night which shows that we are all quite even in light conditions – I really enjoyed the competition, it was an excellent opportunity to test the electronic systems and particularly the UpSide Up anti-capsize system, equipment that controls the alarms and automatically releases the sheets based on pre-defined thresholds. We have made good progress with our preparations, but there is still more work to do!” said the skipper.
The Route du Rhum is the climax of the 2014 MOD70 season that has included breaking the Kiel Welcome Race Record in Germany, setting a new World Record for the Round Britain and Ireland Race and a busy time for the Visit Oman – Tourism Pavilion ashore.