Valentin Bellet’s polished outfit took the spoils in the Gulf classic, revamped 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 at venues all over Oman.
The new format demanded strength, skill and tenacity from the eight international crews competing for the coveted top spot while also showcasing Oman’s natural beauty.
Over the course of the 14 day-campaign Beijaflore were models of consistency, dominating three coastal raids plus the Salalah stadium racing.
They won a quarter of the 19 individual stadium races held and finished in a podium position in all but seven races – an impressive scorecard as the team now turns its attention to the Tour Voile, the highlight of the Diam 24 season.
Thierry Douillard’s EFG Bank Monaco, winners of every EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour since 2013, took the runners-up spot with five individual race wins and two coastal raid victories.
Third place went to Averda, led by British two-time Olympian Stevie Morrison.
“The whole Beijaflore team is really happy to win EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour,” said Beijaflore skipper Bellet, 26, from La Rochelle. “We came here wanting to win and we pulled it off. On paper we have a good advantage but the reality is that on the water it was very close between all the teams.
“We have a very good team, we were well prepared, we fought for every place in every race. This is, ultimately, what made the difference.
“This event has been fantastic training for the Tour Voile – in France now it is very cold and we can’t sail very often but here it’s possible to race every day against some of the top teams and discover this beautiful country. It’s the perfect preparation for us.”
Buoyed by a third-place finish in the 2017 Tour Voile, Beijaflore set an early benchmark with victories in both the coastal raid and stadium racing in Salalah, adding to it with coastal raid wins in Duqm and Ras Al Hadd.
EFG Bank Monaco, meanwhile, started on the back foot with sixth in the Salalah stadium racing series.
Douillard’s crew, including former match racing world champion Mathieu Richard, answered back as the Tour moved north, winning stadium racing in Duqm and the coastal raid in Masirah Island.
French team Vivacar.fr chucked their hat in the ring with a stadium racing victory in Masirah, while Averda claimed the top spot for the inshore action in Sur.
A win in the fifth coastal raid to Muscat’s old town of Muttrah, framed by the stunning Al Hajar mountains, gave EFG Bank Monaco a final boost but by this point Beijaflore’s lead was unassailable.
The final podium positions were confirmed when the fifth and final round of stadium racing was cancelled due to lack of wind.
“We are happy to come second – it’s a very positive thing for our team” said EFG Bank Monaco’s Omani trimmer Ali Al Balushi. “We have had a great two weeks together as a team and as a family.
“The racing was very tight and it was a great opportunity to compete against some of the best teams. It makes me proud to have represented Oman and to have been able to show off my country to so many sailors from all over the world.”
The EFG Bank Monaco crew will now join forces with Averda’s sailors to form a formidable Oman Sail entry in the 2018 Tour Voile where they will aim to improve on last year’s fifth-place finish.
Five race wins for Matthieu Souben’s Vivacar.fr against two for Bernard Stamm’s Cheminees Poujoulat decided the tie for fourth place, while young guns Lorina Golfe du Morbihan, all under the age of 21, finished sixth.
All-woman crew DB Schenker, skippered by Volvo Ocean Race star Elodie-Jane Mettraux and featuring Omani sailors Marwa Al Khaifi and Tamadher al Balushi, were just pipped to seventh by EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour veteran Cedric Pouligny’s Renaissance.
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A spectacular day of racing on Khalid Lagoon was capped off with Quinten Bossche, Emma-Nellie Ortendahl and Yousef Al Abdulrazzaq sealing the world titles in Ski and Runabout at the UIM-ABP Grand Prix of Sharjah.
Bossche’s first Ski GP1 world title tops a remarkable first season on the UIM-ABP tour for the young Belgian rider from Ostende, but it was Kevin Reiterer who dominated both races and maintained his perfect record in Sharjah winning both of today’s Motos to move up into second spot in the championship standings.
In both Motos it was Reiterer leading from the start and holding of Bossche, with Gabor Szabo picking up his best result of the season finishing third in Moto 1 and Stian Schjetlein taking third in Moto 2.
In the Ladies division it was all about Sweden’s Emma-Nellie Ortendahl who was in a class of her own winning both Motos comfortably to successfully defend her title.
She led from pole in Moto 1 and stretched out her lead lap-by-lap to take an effortless win by 25 seconds, second place going to Jonna Borgstrom who passed a struggling Estelle Poret on lap six with Krista Uzare also going passed Poret to take third place, Sofie Borgstrom coming home in fifth ahead of Katrin Nilbe.
Ortendahl sealed her second successive title cruising home in Moto 2 by almost 30 seconds and finishing ahead of Krista Uzare and Kylie Ellmers.
It was a disappointing day for Estelle Poret who saw her title hopes fade completely after being disqualified in Moto 2 and there was also disappointment for Moto 1 runner-up Jonna Borgstrom who crashed heavily on the start lap.
In Runabout, defending champion Yousef Al Abdulrazzaq made no mistakes winning both Motos in style.
In Moto 1 he trailed his title rival James Bushell for five laps before making the telling pass and running out a comfortable winner to take victory by over 25.09s. Jeremy Perez maintained his run of good form with his third top three finish in as many outings, finishing in front of another title hopeful Lars Akerblom. Poland’s Andrzej Wisniewski produced by far his best performance of the season with a great drive to take fifth, Johan Johansson completing the top six.
In the second Moto Abdulrazzaq led from start to finish to seal his fourth world title with Sweden’s Lars Akerblom in second ahead of James Bushell, Andrzej Wisniewski rounding out a great day in fourth with Patrice Pellier in fifth.
Rashed Al Mulla was once again the star in Freestyle scoring 90 points and leads the Grand Prix standings with maximum points heading into tomorrow’s final Moto. Nac Forjancic is in second place, with Roberto Mariani in third.
Team Abu Dhabi 5’s Rashed Al-Tayer and Majed Al-Mansoori shadowed Victory 3’s Salem Al-Adidi and Eisa Al-Ali to the finish of the opening race of the UIM XCAT World Championship on Zhengzhou’s Longhu Lake Saturday.
The two Emirati crews had dominated the pole position qualifying sessions as well, but the Victory 3 benefited from their pole position to finish the 14-lap race 23.4 seconds in front of the crew running out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC).
The Italian duo of Diego Testa and Daniele Martignoni were the surprise package of the first of six XCAT races in the People’s Republic in the space of three weeks. They guided Caccia Engineering 22 to the final slot on the podium and finished more than 16 seconds in front of the Blue Roo, crewed by Aussie Brett Luhrmann and Norway’s Pal-Virik Nilsen. The Swedish pairing of Mikael Bengtsson and Erik Stark rounded off the top five in Swecat Racing.
Race one marked an inauspicious start to the new XCAT season for four-time champion Arif Saif Al-Zafeen and his new British team-mate Scott Williams in Al-Wasl 7. The pair were sidelined after two laps of the race.
Race qualifying was split into three sessions. All 11 boats took to the water for Q1, but the Fujairah Team was disqualified under the new regulations for fielding a boat that was under the weight restriction of 2,400kg.
Team Abu Dhabi 5 ran for seven laps and carded the best time of the session – a last tour of 2min 12.357sec to storm through to Q2. Lady Spain was a mere half a second behind and Victory 3 was third.
The Fujairah Team was again omitted from the six-boat Q2 results sheet in a session where Team Abu Dhabi 5 came out on top again with a solitary lap of 2min 11.353sec from Victory 3, the Blue Roo and 222 Offshore.
The fastest three made it through to Q3 and Victory 3 stole a march on Team Abu Dhabi 5 and the Blue Roo to claim pole position with a winning lap of 2min 10.266sec. Al-Tayer and Al-Mansoori were second with 2min 12.129sec.
The second Zhengzhou Grand Prix starts at 14:30 Sunday (10:30 UAE time).