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Hometown hero wins EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2017 Leg 1

by Oman Sail 16 Feb 13:39 GMT 14 February - 1 March 2017

Omani sailing star Fahad Al Hasni led his crew to a sensational victory in the opening clash of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour, beating reigning champions EFG Bank Monaco (MON) in a thrilling last-minute comeback on Wednesday.

Seasoned skipper Al Hasni and his Team Renaissance (OMA) trailed the three-time EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour winners with only a few miles remaining of the 105-nautical mile sprint from Muscat to Sohar.

But a stunning 11th-hour resurgence saw Team Renaissance overhaul EFG Bank Monaco, skippered by race ace Thierry Douillard and helmed by former match racing world champion Mathieu Richard, just metres from the finish line to snatch the win and cause the first big upset of the event.

Al Hasni, who has competed in every edition of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour since its inception in 2011 and missed the podium by just one point last year, said the victory on home waters was the perfect start to this year's campaign.

"We're all so happy to have won this match race against these world-famous sailors," Al Hasni said. "We sailed well with good communication and great tactics. We were able to pass them just before the finish line which felt amazing. These are our home waters; we know them better than anyone else. To win here is the ideal start for us."

EFG Bank Monaco skipper Douillard vowed to avenge the defeat in Leg 2, a 140-mile sprint from Sohar to Khasab on the beautiful Musandam Peninsula, the second of five offshore stages that will see the fleet race 763 miles around the Arabian Gulf.

"This is a fantastic win for Fahad and the guys, they did well! It's frustrating to sail 99 per cent of the leg in the lead then come second but it's all part of the game," said Douillard, who is standing in for longterm skipper Sidney Gavignet.

"We know now why we were slower at the end of the leg and we will solve it for the next leg to Khasab. It's all to play for in round two."

The Leg 1 podium was rounded off by Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA), led by French sailor Christian Ponthieu.

The testing 20-knot winds and big seas that greeted the eight international teams on Leg 1 were today replaced by lighter airs of around 8-10 knots as the next stage got underway.

As well as being one third longer than the event opener, Leg 2 also presents numerous on-the-water challenges including a changing weather forecast and dozens of oil tankers to dodge.

The leg will see the fleet sail along the picturesque coasts of Oman and the UAE before reaching the Musandam Peninsula where Khasab and the finish line lie.

The headland, characterised by rocky fjords that have earned it the nickname 'Arabia's Norway', is the gateway to the Straits of Hormuz, the narrow entry into the Arabian Gulf.

"Leg 2 is one of my favourite legs," said Mary Rook (GBR), crewmember on all-female team DB Schenker (GER). "The coastline gets mountainous and there are some beautiful islands to sail past. Sailing round Musandam is one of the highlights of the Tour for me so I'm really looking forward to Leg 2."

With winds forecast to lighten it could take the fleet more than 24 hours to complete the stage.

Results after Leg 1: (Muscat-Sohar)

1. Team Renaissance (OMA/Fahad Al Hasni) – 1 point
2. EFG Bank Monaco (MON/Thierry Douillard) – 2 points
3. Team Al Mouj Muscat (OMA/Christian Ponthieu) – 3 points
4. Team Zain (KUW/Cedric Pouligny) – 4 points
5. Adelasia di Torres (ITA/Renato Azara) – 5 points
6. Team Averda (GBR/Andrew Baker) – 6 points
7. Bienne Voile (SUI/Lorenz Mueller) – 7 points
8. DB Schenker (GER/Annemeike Bes) – 8 points

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For more information on the 2017 edition of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour, please go to sailingarabiathetour.com