Posted on February 20, 2016

Omani sailing star Fahad Al Hasni took the fight to mentor Sidney Gavignet as the nine international teams of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour took on their second offshore leg from Abu Dhabi to Doha yesterday. Al Hasni has sailed under the French offshore sailing master's tuition for the past five years as part of the Oman Sail programme, and last year the pair set a new world record for the fast lap of Ireland by boat.

After a disappointing sixth place in the opening leg of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour Al Hasni was determined to show Gavignet what he was capable of as the teams raced 160 nautical miles across the Persian Gulf to the Qatari capital. And following more than a day of intense racing in light, shifty winds Renaissance Services yesterday crossed the finish line of the testing leg in second just behind Gavignet's EFG Bank Monaco.

The result is Renaissance Services' best so far of the five-leg, 730nm tour around the Gulf that started in Dubai and ends in Muscat, and sees the team move into third place overall. A smiling Al Hasni praised his Omani crew after stepping onto the dock at Doha's flagship waterfront development The Pearl-Qatar at sun set. “I am very proud of my crew and what they have achieved on such a tricky leg,” he said. “The wind was really light and we had to be very patient - it was changing direction all the time. Sometimes we'd be in last place and sometimes we'd be in first. The battle with EFG Bank Monaco was great – we were both trying to find the best wind shifts and every time we tacked they tacked to cover us and protect their lead. It was not easy to catch them but we tried our best. It was a really fun leg.”

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Gavignet, who is aiming for his third consecutive EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour win this year, added: “It's great to see Fahad and his guys get this result. They did not get the result they wanted in the inshore racing in Abu Dhabi but I told them to keep pushing. “When the leg to Doha finished and they got second we heard them on the VHF and it was like an explosion of happiness. I'm very proud of them – they deserve it.”

Team Averda, led by young Brit Marcel Averda, completed the podium for leg 2. But it was behind the front three that one of the most exciting incidents came, as Lorenz Mueller's Swiss team Bienne Voile pulled off a sensational comeback following a navigational error. Their crew had been in a strong position early in the leg but mistakenly passed a mark on the course on the wrong side. By the time they realised their error they had sailed 1.4nm past the mark but were left with no choice but to turn round and go back. The mistake saw them relegated to last place but all was not lost for the team – they gambled everything on taking a wind shift but it paid off and they rocketed past the fleet and into fourth.

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A delighted Mueller said: “We were really happy about our position early in the leg but it was a bad moment when we realised our mistake. “We had to go back and we lost lots of ground on the rest of the fleet – we ended up dead last. “We were a little bit desperate and so we decided to put everything on the line and go for a wind shift. It came right at the moment we hoped, and it was an amazing moment. “We had some bad luck but we also got some good luck too. Before we made the mistake we were up with the top three boats so it's very satisfactory for us to have recovered that position.”

Stunning conditions of flat seas and winds of around 10 knots saw the nine international crews cross the Gulf faster than expected. However a disappearance of wind 15nm from the finish line led to EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour race director Gilles Chiorri to end the stage early. The results were therefore decided by the order the fleet were in when they passed the final gate of the leg, 35nm from the finish line. The sailors now have a day to rest and recharge at the luxurious Hilton Doha hotel before they take to the water for the third round of inshore racing, the Doha In-Port Race Series, tomorrow. On Monday the fleet will depart Doha for Khasab on Oman's Musandam peninsula – at 280nm it is the longest and toughest leg of the 2016 EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour, and will take the crews almost two days to complete.

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