Dubai: EFG Bank Monaco skipper Thierry Douillard led his team to their fourth consecutive EFG Sailing Arabia — The Tour title as the Muscat to Dubai race drew to a close on Wednesday.
Douillard’s men sealed their victory in style by winning the final race of the event, a sprint around a short course that rounded off the Dubai in-port series. Bank Monaco began the two-week long, five-leg race around the Arabian Gulf as the hot favourites having won the past three editions.
The award ceremony was attended by Shaikh Khalid Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE Sailing and Rowing Federation, Khalid Bin Said Al Jaradi, Oman’s Ambassador to the UAE and Saeed Hareb, secretary general of Dubai Sports Council.
The reigning champions dominated the podium throughout the tour, winning four of the five offshore stages and one in-port race series. But it wasn’t all plain sailing, Al Mouj, the 2016 runners-up, threatened to usurp Bank Monaco and when they crossed the finish line of the fifth and final leg from Doha to Dubai in first place it looked like a photo-finish was on the cards.
Al Mouj’s hopes of toppling their rivals were dashed when an international jury deemed them to have sailed into an exclusion zone during the leg, resulting in their disqualification. Bank Monaco went into the Dubai in-port race series with an unassailable lead before bowing out on a high, finishing the final inshore series second to Al Mouj.
It was an exhilarating end to an epic race that saw the eight international crews from seven different countries cover 763nm from Muscat to Sohar, around the Musandam Peninsula to Khasab in Oman and on to Abu Dhabi in the UAE. The fleet then embarked on two legs across the Arabian Gulf to Doha in Qatar and back to Dubai, showcasing the world-class sailing the region has on offer.
“It’s a great feeling to win the regatta,” said Douillard, who led the team in place of injured long term skipper Sidney Gavignet. “We really deserved it — we’ve worked so hard over these last two weeks.
“We had a major contest with Al Mouj the entire event and it was just the tiny details that made the difference. We were fast upwind and downwind and in the end we had good control over the fleet. This was one of the best editions of the race for sure — we had wonderful conditions, brilliant legs around the Musandam Peninsula, and a great battle with Al Mouj. I think Sidney will be happy — for us it’s a case of ‘a job well done’.”
Bank Monaco will now have their names engraved on the trophy for a fourth time. Al Mouj’s disqualification in leg five saw them relegated to third overall, behind leg one winners Renaissance.