Age just a number for Herrera at EFG Bank Sailing Arabia

Matt Jones - Editor 08:34 16/02/2016
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Marcel Herrera’s Team Averda won the in-port race.

Add up the combined ages of the two youngest skippers in this year’s 2016 EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour competition, and this hybrid human would still be three years younger than Sidney Gavignet, the captain of two-time defending champions EFG Bank.

Marcel Herrera, who leads Team Averda, is just 23. The man at the helm of Team Delft Challenge, Wouter Sonnema, is only 21.

But don’t let their youthful years lead you into the false assumption either is out of his depth.

This will be Herrera’s fourth year as a skipper and he has two runners-up spots behind him. It will be Sonnema’s second stint as skipper and he led his team to fourth-place last year.

Still not convinced? Maybe you would have been by the fact the duo completed a one-two in yesterday’s Dubai in-port race, which kicked off this year’s competition.

Averda were first overall, followed by Delft, with Oman’s Al Mouj Muscat third.

It may not be the strongest indication of who will be crowned overall winner when the teams cross the finish line in Muscat on February 28, but with the first leg from Dubai to Abu Dhabi taking place today, don’t use Herrera or Sonnema’s age against them.

“We’re definitely the least experienced side according to age and that’s definitely challenging for a bunch of young guys, but last year we won the tough and long leg two because maybe we are strong and have stamina,” said Sonnema.

“We had a good team spirit too and an intense preparation so we know what to expect from each other.”

Despite a decent debut at the helm of Delft, Sonnema is not getting ahead of himself and knows this year will be a big challenge with the level of opposition also rising.

“It’s hard to predict what levels other teams will be sailing at, but their levels will definitely be much higher,” he said. “We want to be at least as good as last year, which means a top-four finish.”

As for Herrera, he was dreaming of finally getting his hands on the first-place trophy after two narrow misses in 2015 and 2014.

The standard of this year’s competition means he will settle for a top three finish, although he is confident of testing himself against more experienced sailors.

“A podium would be fantastic,” said Herrera, who has lived in Dubai all his life.

“The two big favourites are Sidney and Nicolas Lunven (Team Al Mouj). If those guys aren’t on the podium I’d be very surprised.

“The main thing is we’ve got it all to prove rather than all to lose. Sidney has got a lot of pressure on him to win from the sponsors.

“He’s probably one of the best sailors in the world right now and if you look at our team you might recognise two or three names.

“The other guys are the pros, so we take this as an event where we have a chance to do something and we can prove ourselves. Last year we did the same.”

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