Oman Sail’s Class 40 team in contention after classic start to exciting Rolex Fastnet Race
A day into the renowned Rolex Fastnet Race and Oman Sail’s Class 40 team were locked in a close-fought battle near the front of the record-breaking fleet.
Data from trackers on each yacht showed Oman Sail holding sixth place in the 26-strong Class 40 category early on Monday morning as they approached The Lizard Peninsula, the southernmost point of mainland Britain.
A fleet of 368 yachts, the largest since the biennial Fastnet Race began in 1925, started from The Solent on Sunday morning. The classic 605-mile race delivered classic conditions, with an upwind start in 15 to 20 knots and bright sunshine.
The race takes the fleet from England’s south coast to the Fastnet Rock off southern Ireland, then back across the Irish Sea to the finish in Plymouth.
Oman Sail’s skipper Sidney Gavignet said, “The weather forecast is saying that it will be upwind conditions all the way to the Fastnet and downwind all the way back from the Fastnet to Plymouth. Our goal is to get to the finish in one piece, and enjoy the race and keep learning. It is all about taking one step at a time and progressing.
“I almost don’t want to speak about results. For us, it is about sailing a clean race and feeling that we have got the maximum from the boat: That would be a good result.”
Gavignet is racing with his regular Class 40 co-skipper Fahad al Hasni, and they have been joined for the Fastnet Race by the Omani sailor Sami al Shukaili and Spanish Class 40 specialist Alex Pella. All previously raced together on the MOD 70 Musandam-Oman Sail trimaran.
Gavignet said, “Boat speed will be a focus for us, keeping the pace up all the time during the rotations. That is part of my job is to keep the guys going, but they all have very good energy. One thing is to take it easy when we need to.
“It is important. It is a mechanical sport so we need to preserve the mechanics sometimes, and we have to live with what we have. Sometimes you have to be smart.”
Also speaking during preFastnet training, Hasni said, “We are making progress with the boat, though we still have progress to make, but we are getting there. It is great to sail with Shukaili again and having Alex’s feedback on the Class 40 will be really good as well.”
The upwind start and the short-tacking up The Solent will have seen the four putting their training routines into practice, with Gavignet and Hasni handling the boat on deck, while Shukaili and Pella manage the transfer of water ballast and sail stacking below.
At Sunday’s competitive start, Oman Sail was judged to have crossed the line just before the starting gun sounded, and had to return and re-cross the line. Despite giving away several min- utes to their rivals, they were able to climb back into contention over the following hours.
For Gavignet and Hasni, the Fastnet is another step on the road towards the focus of the Oman Sail Class 40 campaign in November.