Three Oman Sail racing teams are starting the next step in their European campaigns with the five-day Grand Prix Ecole Navale regatta held in France. Thierry Douillard’s Diam 24 crew are looking to continue their impressive start to the season as they build up towards their ultimate goal of a podium finish in the high-profile Tour de France a la Voile in July.
Meanwhile the Diam 24 development squad also has solid foundations to build on with improving mid-table results in the highly competitive fleet of high-speed trimarans.
Further emphasising Oman Sail’s commitment to developing talent and creating equal opportunities, the large J80 class will include a mixed Omani crew featuring three members of the ground-breaking Women’s Sailing Programme.
After winning the season opener, Grand Prix Atlantique, Douillard’s team went on to take fifth place at Spi Ouest France followed by a third place podium finish at Grand Prix Guyader. Having put down a marker for the season, the crew will face tough opposition from a 27-strong fleet at Grand Prix Ecole Navale, held off the Crozon peninsula south of Brest on France’s rugged west coast.
Douillard will again race with his regular expert crew of British helm Stevie Morrison, fellow Frenchman Mathieu Richard on navigation and tactics, and experienced Omani sailors Ali Al Balushi and Abdulhaman Al Mashari.
“We have made a good start to the season and we will aim to stay focused and keep winning races,” said Al Balushi. “Our main goal for the year is a strong result in the Tour de France a la Voile, and every regatta is a step in that direction.”
The Diam development squad have benefited from regular race-training sessions with their senior teammates, and will hope to maintain their consistent run of results. Extreme 40 racer Pierre Le Clainche is standing in for Cedric Pouligny at GP Ecole Navale, leading talented Omani sailors Raad Al Hadi and Haitham Al Wuhaibi.
It is Oman Sail’s J80 team which will face the fiercest competition at the regatta, with almost 50 of the sports boats registered in the largest class taking part. It is a challenge that will be relished by Ibtisam Al Salmi.
“It is going to be a tough regatta against some very good sailors,” she said. “We have a strong crew and know each other well, so we will be doing our very best whatever the competition.”
Al Salmi will be joined on board by Marwa Al Khaifi and Tamadher Al Balushi, both sailing instructors with Oman Sail and her teammates from the all-woman crew of DB Schenker on the recent EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour. Also on the J80 crew are Hajir Al Amrani and Diam 24 squad regulars, Yasser Al Rahbi and Akram Al Wuhaibi.
The unique Oman Sail Women’s Sailing Programme has proved to be a great success since it was launched in 2011. It has introduced hundreds of girls and women to sailing, opening up wider opportunities to allow women to fulfil their potential and ambitions.
Team 1 crew members (Diam 24):
1. Thierry Douillard
2. Stevie Morrison
3. Abdulrahman Al Mashari
4. Ali Al Balushi
5. Mathieu Richard
Team 2 crew members (Diam 24):
1. Pierre Le Clainche
2. Raad Al Hadi
3. Haitham Al Wuhaibi
Team 3 crew members (J80):
1. Ibtisam Al Salmi
2. Marwa Al Khaifi
3. Hajir Al Amrani
4. Tamadher Al Balushi
5. Yasser Al Rahbi