Dublin. Ireland. 20th June 2016. The Volvo Round Ireland Race . Musandam-Oman Sail set a new record for the fastest-ever sail round Ireland when the team crossed the finish line at Wicklow in 38 hours, 37 minutes and 7 seconds. Skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA) with team mates Damian Foxall (IRL) and Fahad Al Hasni (OMA), Jean Luc Nelias (FRA), Yasir Al Rahbi (OMA) and Sami Al Sukaili (OMA) Credit : Lloyd Images

Dublin. Ireland. 20th June 2016. The Volvo Round Ireland Race . Musandam-Oman Sail set a new record for the fastest-ever sail round Ireland when the team crossed the finish line at Wicklow in 38 hours, 37 minutes and 7 seconds. Skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA) with team mates Damian Foxall (IRL) and Fahad Al Hasni (OMA), Jean Luc Nelias (FRA), Yasir Al Rahbi (OMA) and Sami Al Sukaili (OMA)
Credit : Lloyd Images

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.

They 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.

Musandam-Oman Sail 2016 (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Musandam-Oman Sail 2016
(Photo by Lloyd Images)

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.

Dublin. Ireland. 20th June 2016.  Credit : Lloyd Images

Dublin. Ireland. 20th June 2016.
Credit : Lloyd Images

“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

Dublin. Ireland. 20th June 2016. The Volvo Round Ireland Race . Musandam-Oman Sail set a new record Credit : Lloyd Images

Dublin. Ireland. 20th June 2016. The Volvo Round Ireland Race . Musandam-Oman Sail set a new record
Credit : Lloyd Images

 

Musandam-Oman Sail Picture of Oman Sail - Musandam takes line honours at the 2015 Artemis Challenge (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

Musandam-Oman Sail Picture of Oman Sail – Musandam takes line honours at the 2015 Artemis Challenge (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

Oman Sail’s crew on flagship MOD70 trimaran Musandam-Oman Sail return to the race track on Saturday with their first big race of the season, the 2016 Myth of Malham off the south coast of England.

This English classic, run by the Royal Ocean Racing Club, is a weekend race starting at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes with the top mark set at the Eddystone Lighthouse, some 12 miles south-west of Plymouth and the finish back in the Solent.

At 256 nautical miles, it may be a relatively short course but it will test the team, since the Solent and Channel are amongst the busiest shipping channels in the world and a hub of recreational boating and sailing in Britain with thousands of boats taking to the waters on a nice sunny day.

Musandam-Oman Sail (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

Musandam-Oman Sail (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

For the Musandam-Oman Sail crew which features Omani professionals Fahad Al Hasni, Sami Al Shukaili and Yassir Al Rahbi, plus skipper Sidney Gavignet, Damian Foxall and navigator Jean Luc Nelias, the race marks the transition from training to performance.

“All our preparations here this week have been about working efficiently round the clock, morning and evening, on the dock as well,” said Sidney Gavignet.

Sidney Gavignet, Skipper of Musandam-Oman Sail (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

Sidney Gavignet, Skipper of Musandam-Oman Sail (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

“We want everyone to perform. On our delivery runs, we have spent a lot of time teaching and experimenting but during the race, there will be no time for any of that. It will be time to perform and that requires a completely different state of mind.”

“It will be good preparation for the Round Ireland race next month.”

Musandam-Oman Sail, an ultra-fast trimaran, will be one of around 40 boats competing in the Myth of Malham but there is only one other contender in the fleet that Gavignet’s team want to beat and that is Team Concise, a rival British-owned MOD70 that recently set a new record in the Round Barbados Race.

“They have done a lot of racing in the Caribbean this year so it will be a very good contest but we have a good crew, and with some intensive training under our belt, we will be trying our best for a win,” added Gavignet.

Known as the mini-Fastnet, since it follows the same course through the Solent down to the 49-metre high Eddystone Lighthouse – which is mentioned in Herman Melville’s epic novel Moby-Dick – the Myth of Malham was named after the yacht of the same name, a 37’6″ sloop built in 1947 that went on to win the Fastnet race that year, and again two years later.

The Myth of Malham race starts on the morning of Saturday May 28 when the fleet will head west out of the Solent en route to the Eddystone Lighthouse before an exhilarating downwind ride back to the Solent under spinnaker.

“We can’t wait to get racing again and are looking forward to getting some speed up on Musandam-Oman Sail,” said Fahad Al Hasni, who is likely to be given helming duties.

“This is the first race of the season and we are keen to make an early impression. She’s a fast boat and because we have a few records under our belt, we know we can get the best out of her but we also know we will have to be at the top of our game to win.”

MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail Programme

Myth of Malham: Starts Cowes, Isle of Wight – Saturday 28 May
Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race: Starts Wicklow, Ireland – Saturday 18 June
Quebec – St Malo: Starts Quebec, Canada – Saturday 10 July

Trimaran MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

Trimaran MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

The Seven Star Round Britain and Ireland, race start.Cowes. Isle of Wight. Oman Sail MOD70 trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA) (Photo by Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images)

The Seven Star Round Britain and Ireland, race start. Cowes. Isle of Wight. Oman Sail MOD70 trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA) (Photo by Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images)

Musandam-Oman Sail, the Sultanate of Oman’s flagship trimaran, will join a small fleet of MOD70s at the start of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s classic Round Ireland Race on 18 June to kick off the European season.

Sidney Gavignet, Skipper Oman Sail Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Sidney Gavignet, Skipper Oman Sail Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

French skipper Sidney Gavignet’s crew of Omani sailors and Irishman Damian Foxall are no strangers to the 700 mile Round Ireland race track having famously smashed the record in 2015 after completing the course in 40 hours, 51 minutes and 57 seconds, some four hours faster than anything achieved previously.

Fahad Al Hasni, Yasser Al Rahbi and Sami Al Shukaili were all on board for the record-breaking voyage and all return to action for the Round Ireland Race.

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

The team has developed a strong bond, says Gavignet so the prospect of lining up against other professional MOD70 crews in June for the start in Wicklow, to follow a course that leaves Ireland and all its islands excluding Rockall to starboard, serves to stir their competitive spirits.

“This Omani crew has a long history – last season especially was very demanding – so we have a very good team with a great team spirit,” said skipper Gavignet.

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

“We would like to win the race but know it will not be easy because the other MOD70s have been sailing a lot in the past few months. We have trained hard and the guys are performing at a different level now so we are very happy to go and do our best against the others.

“We hold the record but it is possible to do better and it is likely that whoever wins will set a new record, depending on the conditions. It is very exciting to be racing against Phaedo and Concise – it will be a good contest.”

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Preparations for the race have included some intensive training offshore as well as participation in the Grand Prix Guyader in Douarnenez, France, last weekend where the Omani Diam 24 team onboard Oman Airports by Oman Sail finished in 3rd place.

This weekend MOD70 sailors Fahad, Sami and Yasser are due to compete on Oman Sail’s J80 at the Grand Prix Ecole Navale at the French Naval Academy in Lanvéoc to get some crucial fleet race practice.

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Success in sailing against the clock for a speed record requires a different mindset to racing in a fleet, said Fahad, Oman’s most experienced and successful offshore sailor.

“Competing with other boats in the Round Ireland race will be different to breaking the record and probably a lot more difficult,” he said.

“The other MOD70s have been training and racing all year and have achieved some good results so they will be hard to beat. But we will be sailing the boat as fast as we can and if we can win, it will be fantastic for us because this is a two thirds Omani crew.”

Records are one thing but when you get two boats racing side by side, the results speak for themselves, commented Damian Foxall, acknowledged as Ireland’s most accomplished ocean sailor.

Damian Foxall ,Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Damian Foxall ,Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

“This season, our campaigns are all about fleet racing. When you are racing against the clock, you never know if you are performing 100% but in fleet racing, if you are not going 100%, you probably aren’t winning. And you know pretty quickly whether you have taken a good or bad option.

“Fleet racing is more like a game of chess and what the other boats do on the course can affect your own tactics. So you have to be on your game 100% all the time and sail a lot harder. Our guys understand that completely.”

A couple of years ago, Musandam-Oman Sail would have been favourite to win the multihull class, Foxall continued but an upsurge in activity on the other MOD70s means they have a contest on their hands.

“The guys on Phaedo and Concise are sailing extremely well now so a couple of years ago, we might have been favourites but that is certainly no longer the case and we are going to have to compete really hard to get a result this year. But we know how to sail the boat so this is great and exactly how it should be.”

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Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

 

To stay up to date: www.omansail.com

For more information on the race, please go to: http://roundireland.ie/wp/

 

Oman Sail Crew Mark Lloyd

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

The Sultanate of Oman’s MOD70 Musandam -Oman Sail trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA). Shown here as the team cross the line and set a new world record for sailing round Ireland in 40h51m57s (unofficial - official to follow) Credit - Lloyd Images

The Sultanate of Oman’s MOD70 Musandam -Oman Sail trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA). Shown here as the team cross the line and set a new world record for sailing round Ireland in 40h51m57s (unofficial – official to follow)
Credit – Lloyd Images

The Ministry of Tourism of Oman’s flagship MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail made history for the Sultanate this morning when it broke the 22-year-old Round Ireland record after completing the 700 mile course in a remarkable 40 hours, 51 minutes and 57 seconds, slashing almost four hours off the existing record.

The Sultanate of Oman’s MOD70 Musandam -Oman Sail trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA). Shown here as the team cross the line and set a new world record for sailing round Ireland in 40h51m57s (unofficial - official to follow) Credit - Lloyd Images

The Sultanate of Oman’s MOD70 Musandam -Oman Sail trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA). Shown here as the team cross the line and set a new world record for sailing round Ireland in 40h51m57s (unofficial – official to follow)
Credit – Lloyd Images

They needed to be back by 1500 to take the record but their breakneck speeds down the west coast of Ireland, at one stage reaching 38 knots, meant they were finished well before that, some three hours and 50 minutes faster than the 44 hours and 42 minutes set by Steve Fossett in his first ever world record back in September 1993 aboard his 60ft trimaran Lakota.

Helmsman Fahad Al Hasni said this record attempt coming at the end of a European winter, had proved tough.

m12435_crop11014_1000x1000_proportional_14078516774540

“It was both scary and exciting because we saw 40 knots of wind and massive waves that we reckoned were around six metres but the main challenge was the cold,” said Al Hasni.

The Sultanate of Oman’s MOD70 Musandam -Oman Sail trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA). Shown here as the team cross the line and set a new world record for sailing round Ireland in 40h51m57s (unofficial - official to follow) Credit - Lloyd Images

The Sultanate of Oman’s MOD70 Musandam -Oman Sail trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA). Shown here as the team cross the line and set a new world record for sailing round Ireland in 40h51m57s (unofficial – official to follow)
Credit – Lloyd Images

“It is still winter here and my hands were so cold I still can’t feel them but I’m really happy because there have been some very famous sailors who have made attempts on this record but we are the ones who now hold it. We have become a really good, tough team and it feels great to be part of it.”

It had been a challenging but amazing experience for the Omani sailors, added Gavignet, who was full of praise for his crew.

The Sultanate of Oman’s MOD70 Musandam -Oman Sail trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA). Shown here as the team cross the line and set a new world record for sailing round Ireland in 40h51m57s (unofficial - official to follow) Credit - Lloyd Images

The Sultanate of Oman’s MOD70 Musandam -Oman Sail trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA). Shown here as the team cross the line and set a new world record for sailing round Ireland in 40h51m57s (unofficial – official to follow)
Credit – Lloyd Images

“This was a real test for them and they came through with flying colours – the whole crew put in a great effort.

“We had to be very careful in these conditions and had no choice but to slow down at times but to have achieved the record so early in our season is a great feeling. It had been a priority and now it is done.”

The Sultanate of Oman’s MOD70 Musandam -Oman Sail trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA). Shown here as the team cross the line and set a new world record for sailing round Ireland in 40h51m57s (unofficial - official to follow) Credit - Lloyd Images

The Sultanate of Oman’s MOD70 Musandam -Oman Sail trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA). Shown here as the team cross the line and set a new world record for sailing round Ireland in 40h51m57s (unofficial – official to follow)
Credit – Lloyd Images

This was Musandam-Oman Sail’s second attempt on the Round Ireland record. Two years ago they set off from Dublin Bay with high hopes but were forced to abandon due to unsafe conditions.

Today was a different story and everyone on board was delighted to add this one to their burgeoning collection.

“This is a great accomplishment for Oman and Oman Sail,” said David Graham, CEO of Oman Sail.

“Attempting to break the Round Ireland record has been our goal for many years now and achieving the feat is a shining example of the hard work and dedication of our sailing squad.”

“Racing against yourself to set a time is the hardest test of discipline. The team must remain focused and motivated at all times, and we have instilled these values since the start of the Oman Sail programme.

The Sultanate of Oman’s MOD70 Musandam -Oman Sail trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA). Shown here as the team cross the line and set a new world record for sailing round Ireland in 40h51m57s (unofficial - official to follow) Credit - Lloyd Images

The Sultanate of Oman’s MOD70 Musandam -Oman Sail trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA). Shown here as the team cross the line and set a new world record for sailing round Ireland in 40h51m57s (unofficial – official to follow)
Credit – Lloyd Images

“With a 50% Omani crew, this record shows that the present and the future of sailing in Oman is on the right course.”

*** Times subject to World Record Sailing Speed Council ratification

The Sultanate of Oman’s MOD70 Musandam -Oman Sail trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA). Shown here as the team cross the line and set a new world record for sailing round Ireland in 40h51m57s (unofficial - official to follow) Credit - Lloyd Images

The Sultanate of Oman’s MOD70 Musandam -Oman Sail trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA). Shown here as the team cross the line and set a new world record for sailing round Ireland in 40h51m57s (unofficial – official to follow)
Credit – Lloyd Images

 

The Seven Star Round Britain and Ireland, race start.Cowes. Isle of Wight. Oman Sail MOD70 trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA) Please (Photo by Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

The Seven Star Round Britain and Ireland, race start.Cowes. Isle of Wight. Oman Sail MOD70 trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA) Please (Photo by Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

Oman Sail’s record-chasers on the Sultanate of Oman’s flagship MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail began their 2015 summer season yesterday late afternoon when they set off from Dun Laoghaire in Ireland for an attempt on the Round Ireland record.

French skipper Sidney Gavignet was reunited with his three Omani crew Fahad Al Hasni, Yasser Al Rahbi and Sami Al Shukaili who were key members of his triumphant team when Musandam-Oman Sail smashed the Round Britain and Ireland world record last August.

. Oman Sail MOD70 trimaran skipper Sidney Gavignet (FRA) (Photo by Mark Lloyd /  Lloyd Images)

. Oman Sail MOD70 trimaran skipper . Oman Sail MOD70 trimaran skipper Sidney Gavignet (FRA) (Photo by Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

Also on board was Spanish sailor Alex Pella and the French multihull veteran Jean Baptiste Levaillant who have joined the Omani trimaran for the attempt to beat the long standing Round Ireland record of 44 hours set back in September 1993 by Steve Fossett’s 60ft trimaran Lakota.

“The goal is to give my Omani crewmates some real life training in a range of conditions and we are taking advantage of an ideal weather window,” explained Gavignet who was last on the boat when he raced it single-handed across the Atlantic in the Route du Rhum in November 2014.

The forecast before they threw the lines at 17:04 UTC on Monday was for light conditions that were scheduled to build significantly overnight. Before casting off, Sidney warned that they would be playing it safe: “We will be watching the weather carefully and avoiding risks.”

Musandam-Oman Sail made an attempt on the Round Ireland record two years ago but were forced to abandon due to unsafe conditions but hopes are high that this time, the weather will be kinder and allow Oman Sail to add this speed record to their growing collection.

 

Fahad Al Hasni (Photo by  Lloyd Images)

Fahad Al Hasni (Photo by Lloyd Images)

“The current record is held by great sailors, so it would be a huge source of pride for us to break it and add such an achievement to our experience as sailors. We are expecting a lot of challenges and very low temperatures to the north, but we are prepared and hope to return with another record for Oman,” said Fahad Al Hasni.

“We are focusing this season on the sailor’s strength and fitness, but also on preparing the boat and studying the weather to make them better all round offshore sailors. There won’t be many record attempts on our schedule in 2015, but this one is a primary goal and if we can get the record, it would be very good for the guys, for the country and for Oman Sail,” added Gavignet.

 

Since the boat was launched following a routine refit, Gavignet has been training with his crew in Lorient and taking part in the Grand Prix Guyader in Douarnenez in Brittany, France, where they flew the Omani flag in Europe for the first time this year and got back into competitive racing mode after a winter sailing with other crew in other boats.

At the time of writing, the boat has rounded the top of Ireland and is doing around 20 knots. The ETA is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

 The 2014 Route Du Rhum finish. Guadeloupe. Pictures of Sidney Gavignet onboard his MOD70 Trimaran Musandam - Oman . Finishing the Route du Rhum in 5th place this morning Credit: Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images

The 2014 Route Du Rhum finish. Guadeloupe. Pictures of Sidney Gavignet onboard his MOD70 Trimaran Musandam – Oman . Finishing the Route du Rhum in 5th place this morning ( Photo © Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sidney Gavignet, French skipper of the Sultanate of Oman’s flagship, Musandam-Oman Sail, crossed the finish line of the Route du Rhum in Guadeloupe at 9:15:24 CET this morning completing the epic adventure in 8 days 19 hours 15 minutes and 24 seconds. After 4,446 nautical miles at an average speed of 21.5 knots he was delighted to reach dry land.

“Mission accomplished!” he said as he came ashore to speak to the media who welcomed him in at 03:30 local time. “The boat was superbly prepared by the shore team and is in as good shape as when I left St Malo 8 days ago, a testimony to their great work.

The 2014 Route Du Rhum finish. Guadeloupe. Pictures of Sidney Gavignet onboard his MOD70 Trimaran Musandam - Oman . Sidney speaks with reporters after the finish  ( Photo © Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images)

The 2014 Route Du Rhum finish. Guadeloupe. Pictures of Sidney Gavignet onboard his MOD70 Trimaran Musandam – Oman . Sidney speaks with reporters after the finish ( Photo © Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images)

“My primary objective was to get to Guadeloupe in one piece and here I am. I made a few small errors during the last few hours of the race, but I managed to finish on the same night as Prince de Bretagne, a boat that is 10 feet bigger than Musandam-Oman Sail, and as Gitana, a heavily modified MOD70. I am immensely proud to have flown the flag of the Sultanate of Oman all the way across the Atlantic and into Guadeloupe. This place is very special to me as I met my wife here 23 years ago while I was training for the Whitbread.”

He was given a hero’s welcome in Pointe-a-Pitre by his Oman Sail teammates who have lived every moment of the race, highs and lows, alongside the skipper. Support for the 45-year-old Frenchman across three different time zones was immense with cheers going up in France and Muscat when he crossed the finish line.

Sidney Gavignet and shore crew member Suliman Al Wahaibi happily celebrate Musandam's arrival in Guadaloupe (Photo © Mark Lloyd/Lloyd  Images)

Sidney Gavignet and shore crew member Suliman Al Wahaibi happily celebrate Musandam’s arrival in Guadaloupe (Photo © Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images)

CEO David Graham, who waved Sidney off in St Malo was the first to applaud such a triumph: “Huge congratulations to Sidney for this incredible achievement. It has been a voyage of discovery for the whole Oman Sail team that has lived this epic experience alongside him, every nautical mile of the way. It has proved very inspiring for our Omani sailors, especially our offshore team who have been sending Sidney messages of support throughout the race, as well as our younger sailors that aspire to greatness on the water in years to come.

“This event has been a great success for us both on the sporting front and in terms of promoting Oman as a high-end tourism destination – we are very proud of Sidney’s achievement and the impact it had with our sailors in terms of inspiration. It may have been a single-handed race, but the reality is there were hundreds of people on the MOD70 with Sidney!”

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Sidney Gavignet and Oman Sail – Musandam arrive in Guadaloupe under a full moon sky (Photo © Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images)

After a nail-biting first 48 hours of the race that saw the French skipper and his 70ft trimaran battle 40knot gusts and huge seas across the Bay of Biscay and then around Cape Finisterre, with a broken jet burner and no hot food, and a hurt and swollen forearm, the Frenchman bounced back with cheerful and awe inspiring tales of full moon sailing at 30knots and nerve-wracking squalls rolling in one after the other.

He punched way above his weight as he wrestled with Prince de Bretagne, an 80ft trimaran 10 feet his senior, all the way across the Atlantic and led right up to hours before the finish when boat length finally prevailed and Lionel Lemonchois gave him the slip to finish ahead.

The Oman Sail Route du Rhum had two objectives, the first to raise awareness of the Sultanate of Oman as a high-end tourist destination, and with over 2 million visitors to the St Malo race village and the “Visit Oman” tourism pavilion, over the course of a week at the start, this box was firmly ticked. The second was to finish – Sidney himself had estimated a 50/50 chance of catastrophe – and as a result to share the experience with the Omani sailors that aspire to follow in Sidney’s footsteps. Mission accomplished.

“One of the highlights of my race was receiving an email from Fahad Al Hasni, one of our best MOD70 sailors – it made me so happy I picked up the sat phone to tell him about life onboard. I think he was very surprised to hear from me, but I could hear the grin in his voice – I know that this race is inspiring my Omani teammates and making them want to go further in their careers and getting his message was a happy moment for me.”

Sidney will take some well-earned rest now and have a long overdue hot meal before the MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail is prepared for the return trip to Europe with Fahad Al Hasni, Yassir Al Rahbi, Abdulrahman Al Mashari and Sami Al Shukaili, onboard.

Route du Rhum Ultime Class – provisional results

  1. Banque Populaire VII/Loick Peyron/103ft – 7 days, 15 hours, 8 minutes, 32 seconds
  2. Spindrift II/Yann Guichard/131ft – 8 days, 5 hours, 18 minutes, 46 seconds
  3. Edmond de Rothschild/Sebastien Josse/modified MOD70 – 8 days, 14 hours, 47 minutes, 9 seconds
  4. Prince de Bretagne/Lionel Lemonchois/80ft – 8 days 17 hours 44 minutes, 50 seconds
  5. Musandam-Oman Sail/Sidney Gavignet/70ft – 8 days 19 hours 15 minutes, 24 seconds
  6. Idec/Francis Joyon/97ft – still racing
  7. Paprec Recyclage/Yann Eliès/70ft – still racing
Sidney Gavignet and Oman Sail - Musandam finish the Route du Rhum in Guadaloupe (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images )

Sidney Gavignet and Oman Sail – Musandam finish the Route du Rhum in Guadaloupe (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images )

Sidney Gavignet before the start of the Route du Rhum 2014 (Photo by Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

Sidney Gavignet before the start of the Route du Rhum 2014 (Photo by Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

 

Frenchman, Sidney Gavignet, flying Omani colours gave fans a fantastic show at the start of the Route du Rhum today in St Malo, France!

Sidney Gavignet sails out of St. Malo at the start of the Route du Rhum 2014 (Photo by Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images )

Sidney Gavignet sails out of St. Malo at the start of the Route du Rhum 2014 (Photo by Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images )

The giant turquoise trimaran burst off the start line in first place and wowed the crowds on the water as it picked its way amongst the vast flotilla of spectator boats through a gusty squall and out into clear water – destination Guadeloupe!

 

Sidney Gavignet at leaving St. Malo, France at the start of the Route du Rhum 2014 ( Photo by Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images )

Sidney Gavignet at leaving St. Malo, France at the start of the Route du Rhum 2014 ( Photo by Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images )

ROUTE DU RHUM - DESTINATION GUADELOUPE 2014 Start photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX

ROUTE DU RHUM – DESTINATION GUADELOUPE 2014 Start photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX

ROUTE DU RHUM - DESTINATION GUADELOUPE 2014 Start      © ALEXIS COURCOUX

ROUTE DU RHUM – DESTINATION GUADELOUPE 2014 Start © ALEXIS COURCOUX

As the tenth edition of the legendary Route du Rhum solo Transatlantic race to Guadeloupe started off Saint Malo, France this Sunday afternoon under grey skies and a moderate SSW’ly breeze. The perennial question of just how hard to push through the first 24-36 hours at sea was foremost in the minds of most of the 91 skippers.

 

When the start gun sounded at 1400hrs local time (1300hrs CET) to mark a spectacular send off for a 3,524 miles contest, which engages and entrances the French public like no other ocean race, breezes were only 15-17kts. But a tough, complicated first night at sea is in prospect, a precursor to 36 hours of bruising, very changeable breezes and big unruly seas.

Such conditions, gusting to 40kts after midnight tonight, are widely acknowledged to be potentially boat or equipment breaking. But the big ticket reward for fighting successfully through the worst of the fronts and emerging in A1 racing shape, will be a fast passage south towards Guadeloupe. Such an early gain might be crucial to the final result.

ROUTE DU RHUM - DESTINATION GUADELOUPE 2014 Start      © ALEXIS COURCOUX

ROUTE DU RHUM – DESTINATION GUADELOUPE 2014 Start © ALEXIS COURCOUX

The converse is doubly true. Any trouble or undue conservatism might be terminal as far as hopes of a podium place in any of the three classes.

In short, the maxim of not being able to win the race on the first night, but being able to lose it over that keynote, initial period, has perhaps never been truer.

The routing south is relatively direct, fast down the Iberian peninsula with a fairly straightforward, quick section under the Azores high pressure which shapes the course. The Ultimes – the giant multis – are expected to be south of Madeira by Tuesday night when the IMOCA Open 60s will already be at the latitude of Lisbon and the Class 40 leaders passing Cape Finisterre.

Vincent Riou, Vendée Globe winner who triumphed in last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre two-handed race to Brasil, said of the forecast: “I carried out statistical studies, set up 140 different routings using ten years of files in my pre-race analysis and I can’t recall a single example of the weather being as favourable for the IMOCAs as what seems to lie ahead‏.”

The change in weather from the idyllic Indian summer conditions which have prevailed through the build up weeks to gusty winds, heavy rain showers and cooler temperatures could do nothing to dampen the extraordinary ardour displayed by the crowds which so openly embrace the Rhum legend. From all walks of life, from babes-in-arms to the elderly, they descend on Saint Malo and the nearby beaches and promontories to see the start and the opening miles.

Lemonchois Leads
It was fitting then that the tens of thousands who braved the deluges and the breeze were rewarded when it was the owner of the race record, Lionel Lemonchois, winner of the Multi 50 Class in the last edition and overall winner in 2006, who passed their Cap Fréhel vantage point, 18 miles after the start line leading the whole fleet on the Ultime Prince de Bretagne.

 

Thomas Coville on Sodebo lead the Caribbean-bound armada off the start line dicing with the more nimble, smaller Multi70 of Sidney Gavignet Musandam-Oman Air which also lead for a short time. The fleet’s ultimate Ultime, the 40m long Spindrift (Yann Guichard) was seventh to Fréhel, clearly needing time and opportunity to wind up to her high average top speeds. Coville has the potent mix of tens of thousands of solo miles under his belt as well as an Ultime (the 31m long ex Geronimo of Olivier de Kersauson with new main hull and mostly new floats and a new rig) which is optimised for solo racing.

The favourites to win each of the different classes seemed to make their way quickly to the front of their respective packs. Vendée Globe victor François Gabart established a very early lead in the IMOCA Open 60s on MACIF, ahead of PRB (Vincent Riou) and Jérémie Beyou (Maitre-CoQ). In the 43 strong Class 40 fleet Sébastien Rogue quickly worked GDF SUEZ in to the lead. He remains unbeaten and won last year’s TJV. Defending class champion Italy’s Andrea Mura was at the front of the Rhum class with his highly updated Open 50 Vento di Sardegna.

Spain’s highly rated Alex Pella was second in Class 40 on Tales 2, Britain’s Conrad Humphreys 20th on Cat Phones Built For It and Miranda Merron sailing Campagne de France in 22nd.

The key international, non-French skippers made solid starts to their races. Self-preservation was key priority for 75 year old Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on Grey Power, who said pre-start that his main goal was to get safely clear of Cape Finisterre, before pressing the accelerator.

He is in good company not least with ‘junior’ rivals Patrick Morvan, 70 and Bob Escoffier, 65 all racing in this Rhum class which features race legend craft as well as sailors. Two of the original sisterships to Mike Birch’s 11.22m Olympus – which stole victory by 98 seconds in the inaugural race in 1978 – are racing in this fleet replaying the fight against the monohull Kriter V which finished second.

First to return to Saint-Malo with a technical problem- needing to repair his rigging – was the Class40 of Jean Edouard Criquioche, Région haute Normandie, who had to turn round after just 45 minutes on course. And the Portuguese skipper in the Rhum class Ricardo Diniz was also reported to be heading back with trouble with his diesel.

Order at Cap Fréhel

1 – Lionel Lemonchois (Prince de Bretagne) / 1st Ultime
2 – Sidney Gavignet (Musandam – Oman Sail)
3 – Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim’)
4 – Loïck Peyron (Maxi Solo Banque Populaire VII)
5 – Sébastien Josse (Edmond De Rothschild)
6 – Yann Eliès (Paprec Recyclage)
7 – Yann Guichard (Spindrift 2)
8 – Yves Le Blévec (Actual) / 1st Multi50
9 – Francis Joyon (Idec Sport)
10 – Erwan Leroux (FenêtréA – Cardinal)
11 – Lalou Roucayrol (Arkema Région Aquitaine)
12 – François Gabart (MACIF) / 1st IMOCA
13 – Vincent Riou (PRB) 14 – Loïc Fequet (Maître Jacques)
15 – Jérémie Beyou (Maître Coq)
16 – Marc Guillemot (Safran)
17 – Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée)
18 – Bertrand De Broc (Votre Nom Autour du Monde)
19 – Tanguy De Lamotte (Initiatives-Coeur)
20 – Armel Tripon (Humble for Heroes)
21 – Erik Nigon (Vers un monde sans sida)
22 – Pierre Antoine (Olmix)
23 – Andrea Mura (Vento Di Sardegna) / 1st Rhum
24 – Sébastien Rogues (GDF SUEZ) / 1st Class40‏

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