Dubai: Dutch Student Team Delft Challenge pulled off a stunning victory in the penultimate leg of EFG Bank Sailing Arabia — The Tour, the Gulf’s only long-distance offshore sailing race.
All the boats competing in the event are identical Farr 30 designs, meaning under normal circumstances in an offshore leg the boats are separated by minutes, if not seconds.
However, on the sixth leg of the event from Zighy Bay to Mussanah Marina in Oman, TU Delft arrived one hour and 12 minutes ahead of her rivals.
After taking the risky tactic of splitting from the rest of the fleet and heading inshore in the early hours, the Dutch team led by Kay Heemskerk at one point had a lead of more than 10 miles — very impressive on a leg that ended up being less than 60 miles from start to finish after it was shortened.
The result left TU Delft solidly in fourth place overall, while Bertrand Pace’s team on AISM Dubai continued to lead, albeit with only a 4.25-point advantage over second-placed BAE Systems ahead of the final sprint leg from Mussanah Marina to The Wave, Muscat.
Second place was still up for grabs ahead of that leg as Sidney Gavignet on EFG Bank (Monaco) trailed the Cedric Pouligny-skippered BAE Systems by just 0.5 points.
Sunday’s penultimate leg should have been plain sailing for the leading three teams. But Eisa Al Esmaili, Events Director of race organiser Oman Sail, said that upsets are part of the thrill of sailing. “It’s a sign of how wide open sailing can be as a sport — our mission is to show everyone in the region that sailing is an accessible sport, and there could be no greater vindication of that ideal than a win from one of our youngest teams. It’s a thrill to see Team Delft Challenge excel here on one of the final legs of the tour in idyllic sailing conditions,” he said.
Fahad Al Hasni on board the Oman-based EFG Bank (Monaco) added: “We are excited to be here and to see all the fans here and to be home. It certainly helped us sailing back into home waters.”