Musandam-Oman Sail set a new world record for sailing around Ireland* and posted a sensational victory in the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race after a cliff-hanger finish with just minutes separating the three giant trimarans on the line. Arriving back in Wicklow Bay, after a thrilling contest with the other MOD70s, Phaedo and Concise, for most of the 700 nautical mile course, Sidney Gavignet’s crew were exhausted but exhilarated by their victory and the new record, which they had set themselves last year beating Steve Fossett’s longstanding Lakota record from 1993.
The crew crossed the finish line at 03:47 local time as dawn was breaking after setting a new time of 38 hours 37 minutes and 7 seconds, which was more than two hours faster than their previous time of 40 hours, 51 minutes and 57 seconds set last year.
Racing with just six crew, including Oman’s three leading offshore sailors Fahad Al Hasni, Yasir Al Rahbi and Sami Al Shukaili, Musandam-Oman Sail claimed line honours while Phaedo 3 were hot on their heels and arrived six minutes later with the third MOD70, Concise 10 trailing by a single minute. The final few moments turned their race upside down, said Gavignet, since for most of the time, they had been chasing the other boats until an opportunity came up to take the lead less than a mile from the end.
“It feels fantastic because at times we were slower than the other boats and I was thinking we might finish last and lose our record but a few minutes before the finish we had a bit of luck and were close enough to the others to take advantage. The guys showed real commitment – we had no watch system so didn’t sleep much and didn’t use the bunks to keep more weight at the back so they were sleeping on the floor and on wet sail bags. They have been grinding a lot and worked really hard so they are exhausted but happy.”
It had been without question the most demanding race he had ever done, added Irishman Damian Foxall as he stepped off the boat, but coming out on top represented a new high in his long career. “I have done a few round the world races but this was up there as one of the best,” he said.
“Racing with six meant one or two less than the other boats so we only had one hours sleep each at the most but being so close to the other boats was so motivating and intense.
“We knew at times we were off the pace but we kept pushing hard and found opportunities to come back into the race. There was a reasonable chance we were going to lose our record so Sidney was fairly tight-lipped coming down the east coast but it is very satisfying to win AND set a new record because this race is not for the faint hearted.”
Al Hasni, who shared helming duties with Gavignet and Foxall agreed it had been tiring but rewarding. “We are really happy with this result; it makes me very proud to raise the Omani flag in Ireland for the second time with this world record – we dedicate our win to the Sultanate of Oman. In the last few miles, we were aware that there were potential passing lanes near the coast so we moved into position which worked and we were able to gain the advantage when it mattered most.
“It was really hard and we thought we had missed our opportunity but those last few minutes turned it round so we are very happy.”
David Graham, Oman Sail CEO, was delighted with the team’s performance: “This was one of the most difficult challenges that the guys on Musandam-Oman Sail have faced, I could hear the smile on Fahad’s face when he answered the satellite phone when I called them as they crossed the finish line to congratulate the team on both the victory and the record.
“We are especially pleased that Fahad, Yasir and Sami are an integral part of the race crew for a second Round Ireland Record – the team has been working hard and it is great to see their efforts pay off. This experience and success is key to their pathway. They had world class mentors on board with Sidney, Damian and Jean Luc [Nelias] and it all worked to deliver our desired result.”
The crew will return to training immediately after food and sleep in preparation for the delivery to Quebec, Canada, where they will set off on the Transat Quebec – St Malo Race across the Atlantic on July 10, returning to Europe for an action-packed summer season of events.
*pending ratification by World Sailing Speed Record Council