Photos: Ricardo Pinto / Route des Princes

Oman Air-Musandam claims first leg win

Opening Route des Prince triumph for Sidney Gavignet's team

Wednesday June 12th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: Portugal

Oman Air-Musandam crossed the finish line off Lisbon to win the first leg of the Route des Princes at 12h41'38'' local time (11h41'38'' UTC), having taken 2d 23h 41mn 38secs for the 794 miles first leg from Valencia, Spain.

With most of the course being upwind the winners sailed at an average of 11.08 kts for the theoretical course, but actually sailed 1024 miles on the water, making her real average of speed 14.28 knots.

Since the six man international crew established a lead leaving Valencia on Sunday they have almost always been ahead in the race. Yesterday evening and this morning Gavignet’s crew had seen their margin of 20 miles shrink until their nearest rivals, Yann Guichard's Spindrift pass them briefly this morning. But further offshore than her competitors Oman Air-Musandam found a new, favourable breeze to the west and were able to regain the lead, extending away from Spindrift, the team which won the MOD70 2012 championship.

Oman Air-Musandam collects the maximum possible points for the stage - 40 pts for winning the leg as well as all the available bonus points, 2pts for leading at Benicarlo and 2pts for leading out of the Mediterranean at Gibraltar yesterday morning.

Skipper Sidney Gavignet commented: “We are happy, we did some good work and made only a couple of small mistakes but it is a good feeling. This just means we are working well together as a team. Last night it was a bit difficult. We had Spindrift and Prince de Bretagne inside us on the coast and they were catching, catching and the wind shift we were looking for was not coming, so that was tricky.”

Crewman Neal McDonald added: “It is good. I think the two days of inshore racing in Valencia did not really reflect our level and maybe this proves we are capable. It is a reward for all the hard work that we all put in before, it has paid off a dividend now.

“Last night was a bit tense. There was no half measures when they were ten or 15 miles behind us because it would not have made sense to go back and try and cover them and you can’t see them so we had to do something different. We were pretty confident in our option.”

It was the tactical calls made by the Oman Air-Musandam skipper on the sprint north from Valencia to Benicarlo at the start of the leg that sealed the deal, McDonald added, but crew work had been professional and consistently good throughout.

“Sidney was the one that made the decision that sealed it for us which was to stay offshore and not cut the corner and although the gains looked small to start with, it proved a big and important call.

"The team worked well. We had done lots of practice and although that didn’t show in the inshore racing in Valencia, it proved important in this race. We got the early breakaway and wanted to push hard and get into the lead and that is what happened.”

Weather planning from Jean Yves Bernot before the race proved so invaluable for Gavignet that he dedicated the win to the French weather expert: “I had just one day with Jean Yves on the weather before the delivery to Valencia and to be honest that made a lot of things more clear in my mind’’ he said. “I would dedicate the leg to him. It was just one day but I would say that before I felt the weather might be a weakness, because we don’t have a dedicated navigator, but after that day I was feeling much more confident. I was feeling strong, so it feels good to have made these calls.”

A delighted Damian Foxall, who last year was first into Lisbon onboard Groupama in the last Volvo Ocean Race added his take on the final nail biting hours to the finish.

“Last night we were following a dying breeze up the Portuguese coast and it was very clear we had to step offshore to pick up a new breeze which was tricky because at one stage it looked like the competition was closer to Lisbon than we were,” said Irishman Foxall.

“We had to have a lot of confidence in what we were doing - it would have been easy to tack back inshore and try and cover them but we stuck to our plan. We really wanted this win and everything went according to plan!”

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