Beijaflore on the brink of victory ahead of EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour's finale
Beijaflore on the brink of victory ahead of EFG Sailing Arabia
Beijaflore are on the brink of back-to-back EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour titles after taking victory in the final coastal Raid of the 2019 marathon down Oman's coast. The French defending champions have one hand firmly on the trophy having put on a masterclass of light wind racing in Salalah on the penultimate day of the two-week event, which also saw them add a further win in one of the two Stadium races held.
The Raid win ahead of their closest Tour rivals Cheminées Poujoulat – who finished the Salalah Raid in second place with Oman Shipping Company third – effectively puts them in a realistically unassailable position on the top of the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour leaderboard. While Beijaflore go in to Saturday's Sailing Arabia finale with an eight-point lead, the contest for the two remaining places on the podium remains undecided.
In second overall, Cheminées Poujoulat is only three points ahead of Oman Shipping Company, while Seaflotech and Mood are only separated by half a point and just four points from a shot at third place.
It's a podium challenge embraced by the Mood team, making their debut on Sailing Arabia – The Tour. Skipper Damien Iehl leads a talented squad which comprises Benjamin Amiot, Aurélien Ducroz and Pierre Le Clainche.
"We are happy to have taken fourth place on the Raid as a team, we stayed together and came back well from a bad start," said Iehl, speaking after a Raid which took over four hours to complete and two quick-fire Stadium races.
"It has been a very long day on the water, and you have to stay focused for five or six hours, but it has been a really good day.
"We perhaps still have a chance of a place on the podium, though not top two as Beijaflore and Poujoulat sailed very well, so third place, which will make it very interesting today. If we sail very well it is possible for us, it is very close. Can we do it? We will see today."
A little further down the table the competition is also tight, with Golfe du Morbihan and EFG Bank also separated by just half a point, and CER Geneva just 3.5 points further back.
"We are within a few points of EFG and Golfe du Morbihan so we will try our best, but the main thing for us now is that we enjoy our final day in Salalah," said CER's Victor Casas, who races with Matthieu Ravussin and Swiss twins Nelson and Lauranne Mettraux.
"We have really enjoyed the Tour, but we are all getting a little bit tired now after two weeks, and it is hard to keep focused for so long on a long day like today. But it is really good training for the Tour Voile for us as we are a new crew and we are trying different things and doing our best."
Friday's light airs in Salalah were a sharp contrast to conditions earlier on the Tour in general, and in particular to Sur – where strong winds ruled out any racing – and at the previous venue in Duqm which saw exhilarating racing in 20-plus knots of breeze over two days.
EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour concludes on today with a series of short, sharp Stadium races, with final outcomes still to be decided for several teams.
Overall standings after eight days of racing:
1 Beijaflore 22.5 points
2 Cheminées Poujoulat 30.5
3 Oman Shipping Company 33.5
4 Seaflotech 38
5 Mood 38.5
6 Golfe du Morbihan 54.5
7 EFG Bank 55
8 CER Geneva 58.5
9 Renaissance 79
10 DB Schenker 85