(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) With lack of winds forcing a delay of nearly 19 hours, the first leg of the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia-The Tour (SATT) 2013 finally started just 40 nautical miles off Pearl Marina in Doha, Qatar, on Monday morning. With Royal Navy of Oman not starting the race, the remaining eight teams competed over the short course under light wind conditions of 4-5 knots.
In a thrilling sprint finish, Oman's Team BAE Systems, skippered by the experienced Cedric Pouligny, won the first leg from Amwaj Marina, Bahrain, and Doha. Race director Giles Chiorri flagged off the contest at 8.12am on Monday and Team BAE Systemswas the first to cross the finish line in a time of 4h49m12s, just 1m23s ahead of EFG Bank (Monaco), skippered by Sidney Gavignet.
The third place was clinched by the team comprising university students from Plymouth, UK - Team Messe Frankfurt. Skippered by 19 year old Marcel Herrera, the team was merely 29 seconds behind EFG Bank. Omani sailor Mohsin al Busaidi's Team Renaissance finished fourth, while the all-women team of Al Thuraya bank muscat Team, skippered by British sailor Dee Caffari, took seventh place. Pouligny told Muscat Daily after the day's action, ''It's always good to get off to a winning start.
Though it was frustrating to wait for the start the whole night, the race director did well to promptly get the race started this morning.'' Chiorri had attempted to start on Sunday evening, but had to abort the move with no winds around. The teams then slowly motored along to 60 nautical miles off Doha, from where the actual contest began on Monday. Ali al Balushi, the bowman of the Team BAE Systems, said, ''Although I have competed in three Tour de France a la Voile regattas, to sail in the region is a great experience.
It is fantastic to have a won the first leg.'' While Pouligny and his teammates were excited after an action-packed day in the fortnight-long event, Dee was a bit disappointed, saying that the real action is yet to begin. ''It was boring, having to motor down for most of the leg. The Tour is yet to start in the real sense,'' she said. Raya al Habsi, one of the four Omani crew members on board Al Thuraya bank muscat Team, agreed with Dee.
''We had to wait to get a start till the morning. So, it was boring waiting the entire night. We are expecting some exciting competition in the remaining legs,'' Raya said. EFG Bank (Monaco) Team's Gavignet said, ''It was interesting to sail over such a short course and I am satisfied with the runner-up finish. Pouligny and his team deserved to win today.'' On board EFG Bank boat was another Omani sailor, Fahad al Hasni. The trimmer said, ''I always learn a lot while sailing with Sidney [Gavignet]. It was a test of skills when we were racing in such light wind conditions.''
Race director Chiorri later told Muscat Daily that Royal Navy of Oman refused to start the race over a misunderstanding. It is understood that the team, skippered by Qais al Maamari, can demand redressal. If it can convince the jury, it will be granted average points, but if it loses the appeal, it will be docked ten penalty points for not starting the race.
Standings (points): 1 Team BAE Systems (1), 2 EFG Bank (Monaco) Team (2), Team Messe Frankfurt (3), 4 Team Renaissance (4), 5 Team AISM (5), 6 Team Delft Challenge-TU Delft (6), 7 Al Thuraya bank muscat Team (7), 8 Team Abu Dhabi (8), 9 Royal Navy of Oman (Did Not