(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Oman Sail MOD70 team skipper Sidney Gavignet and his crew of Omani and European sailors are targeting the Seven Star Round Britain and Ireland as well as the Tour de France a la Voile (TDV) titles this summer.
The 12-member team that will take part in eight events from April-August will rotate its team members all along to help all its sailors develop skills and contribute to the performances.
Fresh from a win in the EFG Sailing Arabia-The Tour, Gavignet, also a former TDV winner, is focussing on training for the summer races. ''I hope we can get a podium place in the Tour de France a la Voile,'' said Gavignet, on the sidelines of training on M34 in France. ''If we can get on the podium, it would be a great result. We are building an elite squad of Omani and European sailors. As a team, we hope to improve on previous results.''
Gavignet explained that good results from the M34 contests at Spi Ouest France, Grand Prix Guyader, the Normandy Sailing Week and then the TDV will serve as benchmarks for the Oman Sail team.
The MOD70 programme starts with work-up events, Grand Prix Guyader and the Armen race in France. It also includes corporate sailing meets at Kiel Week and the Artemis Challenge during the Cowes Week, before leading up to the Seven Star race that starts just over a week after the TDV ends in August. ''Even if there isn't the kind of MOD70 racing we have had in previous years, sailing this multihull is still a challenge,'' said Gavignet.
''Being able to sail a fast boat well is a useful experience for our Omani sailors. MOD70 is quite different from M34s. By the end of the summer, we should see some improvements in the squad,'' he said.
The Frenchman added, ''The best possible scenario this summer would be to win the Seven Star race on corrected time and to get a place on the podium in the TDV - that would be perfect.''
The Oman Sail squad will comprise some of Oman's best-known sailors, like Nasser al Mashari, who recently won the Extreme Sailing Series Act 2 with The Wave, Muscat, Ali al Balushi, who returns for another TDV, Mohammed Mubarak al Makrini, Mohammed al Mujaini and Fahad al Hasni, who is a regular in the MOD70 circuit.
They will be joined by a mix of Irish and French sailors, who are familiar faces in Oman Sail teams. They feature Cedric Pouligny, Oman Sail's skipper in three TDV campaigns, Shane Hugues, Alex Pallu, Guillaume Berenger, Gilles Favennec, Damien Lehl and well-known Irish sailor Damian Foxall, who recently raced in Omani colours at the Transat Jacques Vabre with Gavignet.Women's team for J80:
In addition to its MOD70 and M34 campaigns, Oman Sail will continue to develop its Women's Sailing Programme, sending a women's team on the J80 European circuit from April-July.
The girls' squad will include regulars Ibtisam al Salmi, Raiya al Habsi and Raja'a al Owaisi. They will be joined by Nashwa al Kindi, one of Oman Sail's women instructors who recently completed a trans ocean crossing with British Olympic sailor Mary Rook and Hilary Lister.
For Spi Ouest, an all-Omani men's crew will race alongside the girls on a J80. That team will feature Hasni, Mashari, Balushi and Sami al Shu