Thursday, 14 August 2014

BRUTAL and AMAZING: Musandam Oman Sail's incredible adventure for World Record

Musandam-Oman Sail have set a new world record for sailing round Britain and Ireland after shaving 16 minutes off the current record and taking line honours in the 2014 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race after a nail-biting end to a remarkable three days.

They don't look exhausted!!
 An exhausted but jubilant Sidney Gavignet and his crew of Damian Foxall, Fahad Al Hasni, Sami Al Shukaili, Yassir Al Rahbi and Jan Dekker crossed the Cowes finish line at 12.42.36 BST on Thursday 14th August 2014.

Their time for 1956 nms course was 3 days 03 hours 32 minutes and 36 seconds which was just 16m 38s faster than the previous World Record set by Banque Populaire 5 in 2011. They averaged an incredible 23.8 knots all the way round the course and had no idea until they crossed the finish line that they had taken the record.

“We didn’t realise we had broken the record until we crossed the finish line,” said Gavignet.
“We got to St Catherine’s two hours before doing 30 knots but suddenly there a cloud and no wind so we thought our chances had gone. But we kept working and working. and finally we made it 16 minutes before the time limit.”

Amazing Musandam-Oman Sail

There was plenty of luck involved, he added.

“The weather was exceptional…I doubt you could find better for the Round Britain and Ireland Race except for two little clouds at the finish. We went round Great Britain and the islands without a tack, only gybes. No tack, zero tacks. That is rare possibly unique.

“It’s amazing to beat Loick Peyron and his boys on Banque Populaire 5 which is almost two times bigger than us. I kept saying there is no way we can beat that boat so it is a surprise. I’m a happy skipper.”

Musandam-Oman Sail also knocked a massive 2 days 17 hours and 52 minutes off the Sevenstar  Round Britain and Ireland Race Record of 5 days 21 hours 26 minutes 55 seconds set by Franck Cammas’ monohull Groupama in 2010.

It was he wot did it! Sidney Gavignet and Damian Foxall - the Musandam-Oman Sail brains trust
For the first time, Musandam-Oman Sail was racing with three Omani sailors in a total crew of six, with Sami Al Shukaili and Yassir Al Rahbi joining Oman Sail’s flagship boat just one month prior to the race.

“It was my dream to race on the MOD70 when I joined Oman Sail,” enthused Al Shukaili. 

“I pushed myself hard to lose weight and to sail hard every day to get into shape for the MOD70 and Fahad gave me a big push to sail with him. I knew there was a time to beat to break the record but at the finish I wasn’t sure if we had done it. But I saw everyone was happy so I was happy with them.”
Gavignet paid tribute to his Omani crewmembers, especially his two new recruits.

“They were not seasick, which is impressive and did not get tired and had a fantastic attitude. They picked up a lot of things on this trip and gained valuable experience. I have found two new Omani sailors which is great for us, great for them and great for Oman Sail. 

“This record is good for Oman Sail and I’m happy for three Omanis to be going back to Oman with a lot of positive vibrations."

Fahad Al Hasni has been with Musandam Oman Sail from the day it was launched in 2012 and has many thousands of trimaran racing miles under his belt but this world record represented a special moment in his career, he said.

Damian Foxall, Fahad Al Hasni, Sami Al Shukaili, Yassir Al Rahbi and Sidney Gavignet

“It was good fun and it is great to come back with the record and to have the boat in one piece. Everyone is good and we are happy to have a crew that is half Omani for the first time and feel it is a really big thing to have done.”
Ireland’s foremost offshore sailor Damian Foxall has raced around the world seven times yet he too said this world record was of his finest achievements.
“I would put this record up at the top of my lists of achievements – the enormity hasn’t really sunk in yet!” he said.
“Just to put things into context, two of our Omani crewmates had only stepped on to the MOD70 at the beginning of the season and they have made huge progress.

“The fact that we were able to push that hard around the course is a reflection of the crew’s ability and bodes well for the future of Oman Sail – we are on the right track.”

The stars of the show, according to Jan Dekker, one of the most experienced offshore sailors in the world but racing a MOD70 for the first time, were the ‘amazing’ boat and crew.

“Amazing conditions but mostly an amazing boat,” he said.

“Doing 30-35 knots all the time. It was quite brutal – I have sailed ORMA 60s a fair bit but this was full on. The only thing you can do down below is to hang on.  The three Omanis were great – some more experienced than others but all totally at home on the boat.”

Tributes started pouring in as soon as Musandam-Oman Sail’s success was confirmed.

 “This record is a testament to hard work all round,” said David Graham, CEO of Oman Sail.
“Sidney and Damian have dedicated much of their time training our Omani sailing squad in all aspects of offshore sailing.

“Our Omani sailors have soaked that up over the last couple of seasons and worked hard in self-improvement. The world record beating crew was 50% Omani Nationals and this is a real achievement. We are a step nearer our goal and I am delighted for all the sailors.”

When the celebrations have died down and the crew taken a well-earned rest, Gavignet will be on the move again, fitting his ‘solo’ kit to the MOD70 and kicking off his preparations for the single-handed Route du Rhum in November.

“We will have a little rest and a chat then head back to Lorient with our solo kit – our first single handed experience on this boat.  I’m not sure what it will be like sailing solo on this boat. I think it will be tough so I will need plenty of luck. It is easy to capsize these boats so it will be about staying upright. 

“But I think Musandam-Oman Sail and I can go quite fast together. I know the challenge is massive but it is a gift for me and I will go step by step.”

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Mistake came as a wake-up call for women on Team SCA, says Caffari

One ‘silly’ mistake that cost the all –women’s crew on Team SCA a podium place in the Artemis Challenge has served as a wake-up call ahead of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race starting on Sunday.

A tactical error at the start of Thursday’s limbering up race around the Isle of Wight saw Sam Davies’ 14 strong crew, which comprises five British women, trail in last behind the two other Volvo Ocean 65s which will compete in the Volvo Ocean Race starting from Alicante in October.

“It’s only now we are seeing how costly a silly mistake can be,” admitted Dee Caffari, the British round the world solo sailor who joined the campaign in April.

“We have been training on our own in Lanzarote but being exposed to the other teams, it’s clear you will get punished if you make a mistake so it is good for us to have a wake up call.

There has not been any women racing in the Volvo Ocean Race since 2005 when Adrienne Cahalan was navigator for one leg on Brasil 1. The last all-female crew Amer Sports Too, skippered by American Lisa McDonald, campaigned the 2001-2 Race following in the footsteps of Tracy Edwards and her Maiden crew who raced around the world amid blaze of publicity in 1989-90.

“None of us have any experience of the Volvo Ocean Race and are up against other crews who have a lot of experience on board,” said Caffari.

“So this is just the start of things and we are confident we will grow as a team as we learn the boat and roles.”

Team SCA  is one of 27 boats taking part in the 1800 nms Round Britain and Ireland Race which starts in Cowes and is likely to take six days, but a forecast for heavy weather for the first night which will see the fleet battle against uncomfortably strong headwinds, will rule out any chance of setting a new RBI record.
These Team SCA girls mean business

"We are quite excited about the heavy weather forecast because we have done quite a lot of nice sailing so far and have not done long upwinds in big seas so it will be a good time for us test the crew and boat’s performance,” said Caffari after a general abandonment of all classes at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week.

Veteran sailor Sir Robin Knox Johnston, who at 75 is the oldest competitor, will use the race as part of his preparations for the solo transatlantic race, the Route du Rhum, in November but his 16 year old IMOCA Open 60 Grey Power will struggle for speed in a pedigree fleet of some of the fastest boats on the planet including the Omani MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail, the favourite for line honours.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Is Pippa Middleton preparing for Volvo Ocean Race?!

A charity gig? Or is Pippa Middleton honing her helming skills for Volvo Ocean Race!!!

 The opening skirmishes at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week were cast aside yesterday as near perfect sailing conditions produced some cracking contests, and despite being only two days in, some hot contenders for ultimate class honours.

A busy night for the boat repair teams in Cowes meant a full turn-out for the Daring class, including the damaged Double Knot and Destroyer as well as a return of IRC Class 0 boats Tonnerre de Breskens and Tokoloshe II after their collision on Saturday. But it made no difference to the leaderboard in either class.

Giles Peckham, a veteran of 30 Cowes Week regattas, once more stretched his legs in his Daring Dauntless and scored his second win of the week, again by more than four minutes. Two minutes separated the next three boats, with Magnus Wheatley’s Destroyer, which was holed the previous day, coming in fourth having led for much of the race.

“It was an interesting race with lots of opportunities to change places, so it was about finding the shifts and finding the pressure and working out how much effect the tide had. So it was very tactical,” said Peckham, who in 2008 was crowned King of Cowes when he won an Laser SB3 event, beating champions from all other classes.

Defending his class win of 2013, the popular Peckham is now favourite for this year’s title though a forecast for light airs today and Tuesday may see some changes to the rankings, as they are bound to in the big boat class which has so far been dominated by Scottish businessman Lord Irving Laidlaw in his Reichel Pugh 52 Cape Fling II.

Laidlaw, with tactician Peter Holmberg on board along with offshore whizzes Paul Standbridge and Emma Westmacott, arrived in Cowes with a mission to overhaul the winter’s defeats by Piet Vroon’s Tonnerre de Breskens, who beat them in nine of the ten races they raced during the Caribbean season.

At Cowes, the tables have turned though, Tonnerre was forced off the course in the opening race after a collision with the GP42 Tokoloshe II and then made an error on the start line yesterday to finish behind Cape Fling after a close contest.

“We did a really nice job against them in the Caribbean but this week they are the benchmark,” said Frank Gerber, Tonnerre de Breskens boat captain.

“But it could get interesting if the wind goes light over the next two days when Tokoloshe II should come to the fore. We might still be able to win this class – we missed out over the last couple of days but we can’t afford to screw up now.

“We won here last year and beat Tokoloshe in the Round the Island Race so we have as good a chance of winning as anyone.”

Pippa Middleton proved herself an expert and competitive helm when she took charge of one of the UKSA boats as part of a charity event which will be supported by the Princess Royal and the Duke of Edinburgh this week.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Has Sir Ben Ainslie splashed £1 million cash on a new toy?

There’s been a lot of fun at 2014 Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week trying to work out the whys and wherefores over Sir Ben Ainslie's fabulous new boat, which predictably is called Rita.

Sir Ben Ainslie and girlfriend Georgie Thompson on Rita

 He and his glamorous girlfriend Georgie Thomson were spotted on the boat on Saturday but despite a squillion questions to a zillion people, no one seemed to know what it was, where it came from and why it was there. No nuffin!

But we did some digging and discovered – eventually - that it is a beautiful Hoek Design Truly Classic 65 (we think). Apparently it combines early 20th century elegance with 21st century underwater hull configurations and she is a performance cruiser which means she is fast and comfortable!

It was recently in Berthons in Lymington for a big-gish refit including air conditioning, chain plate covers, and general upgrades to get her ready for the 2014 season though it is unlikely that Ainslie will be able to find time to race her due to his 24/7 commitment to raising funds for his Ben Ainslie Racing bid for the America’s Cup.
Rita at Berthons in Lymington

A boat similar to this one – possibly this very boat (see below) was up for sale recently for £1.1 million which probably isn't far off what Ainslie earned from the last America’s Cup. This one has raw teak decks and a varnished mahogany doghouse – absolutely gorgeous.

No idea if it is Ainslie’s boat but the fact it is called Rita, the name he has given ALL his boats throughout his brilliant career suggests it belongs to him. It is enough to give us major boat envy!!!

Here is what the Hoek Design Truly Classic 65 look like inside. Get ready to dribble.....

And this.........

Daring -do!!

It all kicked off in the Royal London YC last night as the Daring knuckle-bruisers tried in their own way to sort out the mess from earlier in the day when Magnus Wheatley had this hole put in his beloved Destroyer by John Hackman's Doube Knot. It was heartbreaking because Wheatley spent around £10,000 on his restoration and this little dent will add another £2-3,000 to the bill.


Disappointingly (!) the paramedics were not required but no one would have been surprised if a few punches had been thrown. This is a very competitive class, packed with spiky owners reminiscent of the good old Laser SB3 charlies who used to come dressed like super heroes each time they raced, sporting virile hairy chests and runaway mouths……

The Daring is a conspicuously beautiful and elegant day boat. It stands out as a thing of beauty, even among the confusing mass of hulls that greet visitors when the Red Jet weaves its way across the Solent to Cowes. The people that sail them, many of them Squadron members, are not so elegant but they tend to be fantastic sportsmen. It is THE class to watch in 2014.