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New look EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour debuts in spectacular style

by Oman Sail 6 Feb 10:19 GMT 4-17 February 2018
EFG Sailing Arabia The Tour on February 5th, 2018 in Salalah, Oman © Lloyd Images

French young guns Beijaflore threw down the gauntlet to their seven international rival teams as they dominated the opening rounds of the new-look EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour.

The event, Arabia's premier regatta, has been given a fresh new look for 2018 to feature a fleet of super-fast Diam 24 trimarans doing battle in five long coastal raids and five short, intense stadium race series.

The new format demands strength, skill and tenacity from the eight international crews competing for the coveted EFG Sailing Arabia – the Tour title over the 14-day campaign as well as showcasing Oman's natural beauty.

Valentin Bellet's Beijaflore team shot out of the blocks as the event got underway on Sunday with stadium racing in perfect conditions – 20 knots of wind, clear blue skies and warm water – coming home with two wins from three.

Bellet's outfit, third in the 2017 Tour Voile, followed up with a compelling victory in the opening coastal raid on Monday that saw the teams blast 35 miles along Oman's stunning coastline at speeds of more than 20 knots.

Beijaflore's impressive start has set an early benchmark for the fleet, which includes four-time EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour winners and current reigning champions EFG Bank Monaco skippered by France's Thierry Douillard, Swiss team Poujoulat led by offshore sailing legend Bernard Stamm and 2015 Tour Voile winners Team Lorina Golfe du Morbihan.

Also vying for the coveted title are British/Omani crew Averda skippered by Olympian Stevie Morrison, Volvo Ocean Race star Elodie Mettraux's all-woman team DB Schenker, EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour regulars Renaissance led by Cedric Pouligny and talented French crew Vivacar.fr.

"We couldn't really have asked for a better start," Beijaflore skipper Bellet said. "The wind has been strong and that's just what we like, especially when the water is flat. We have had that both days, so it's been perfect for us. It's our first time sailing in Oman and so far it's been incredible."

EFG Bank Monaco's Douillard, one of France's best-known sailors, will not only be looking to defend his EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour title but also beat Morrison, his team mate on Oman Sail's Tour Voile Diam 24 crew.

"Last year we won, but this year it's a totally new game," he said. "We have split our Oman Sail team into two for this regatta, and it's perfect training as we gear up to the Tour Voile later this year."

Team Averda skipper Morrison, who represented Great Britain at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, added: "In Europe it's winter but here we are blasting around in 20 knots of wind wearing summer clothes," he said. "It doesn't get much better."

Prior to the Salalah coastal raid the teams took to the city's Dahariz beach to pick up litter as part of Oman Sail and Averda's marine conservation initiative.

The fleet will now move north to the port town of Duqm where the action will continue on Wednesday with another round of stadium racing and the second coastal raid on the 8th.

The revamped EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour course will take the sailors to some of Oman's most picturesque coastal sights including Masirah, Ras Al Hadd, Sur and Bandar Al Khiran.

Racing will conclude in Mutrah, the old town of Oman's capital city Muscat, on February 17.

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