DUBAI: Setting off from Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club at sunrise and arriving at Dubai as the sun set over the city, Sunday’s leg of EFG Bank Sailing Arabia The Tour was as spectacular for its scenery as it was for the quality of the racing.
Having held the lead in the race since the first leg from Manama to Doha, team BAE Systems under the command of skipper Cédric Pouligny was finally caught up by the relentless professional crew of America’s Cup skipper Bertrand Pacé and Dubai based Team AISM.
Leading almost from the start of the leg, AISM kept their cool under the blazing February sunshine and held off all challengers in the light breeze all the way to Dubai. Having been just a quarter point behind BAE Systems after the in-port racing in Abu Dhabi, their win gives them a slender lead of three quarters of a point as they head off for Ras Al Khaimah this morning.
Bertrand Pacé’s AISM crew proved that they can not only perform inshore, but offshore as well when they won yesterday’s third offshore leg of the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour, the GCC’s longest yacht race.
It was an early start for the crews, but they were treated to seeing dawn break over Abu Dhabi’s magnificent skyline before getting underway in initially light conditions on the 78 mile leg, northeast up the UAE coast from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. Once again sneaking their way into the lead were the three usual suspects –AISM, the Cedric Pouligny-steered BAE Systems and Sidney Gavignet’s crew on EFG Bank (Monaco).
Over the course of the day as the wind built to just over 10 knots, EFG Bank (Monaco) pulled into the lead when team BAE Systems and EFG Bank (Monaco) became involved in their own personal match race. Team BAE Systems also got ahead of the trio for around an hour, but it was once again AISM, winner of the last offshore leg and the last two days of inshore racing that proved the class act, taking line honours into Dubai yesterday at 17:36:17 local time, just four minutes ahead of BAE Systems, with EFG Bank (Monaco) a further seven minutes behind.
As the boats lined up downwind, during the day the wind was veering and Pacé said their key move was getting on the inside of this shift during the critical gybes. “I am also quite happy with our speed downwind. We were probably quicker than anyone else. We have prepared well and we try not to be too heavy.”
As a result of their victory, AISM has finally pulled into the lead overall ahead of BAE Systems, albeit only by 0.75 points.
“It was a lot of fun - a lot of strategy and positioning and also boat speed, as usual, “ said BAE Systems skipper Cédric Pouligny of yesterday’s race. “You had to play some gybes and take some options, it was full VMG sailing, so more of a game, more fun.”
AISM got ahead of them, according to Pouligny, because of a small communication failure on their part. “We let him go on our right, we didn’t react quickly enough and then it was a fight and he overtook us and when we gybed he was ahead of us.”
Skipper of EFG Bank (Monaco), Sidney Gavignet, was once again pleased that his team was on the podium again, but less happy about their being in third place. “It is annoying to be at the back of the top three, but I think it is clearly going to be between the three boats. That is why finishing third is not bad, but not so good...”
After an overnight pitstop, the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour continued on up the UAE coast on Monday with the short 53 mile leg from Dubai to Ras Al Khaimah.
Setting off from Manama Feb 10, the tour called at Doha and Abu Dhabi, reaching Dubai yesterday. The race will also call at Dibba and Mussanah in Oman before reaching Muscat on Feb.25.