Muscat: On Friday, July 4, the Oman Sail M34 squad will line up against some of France's leading offshore sailors for the 37th edition of the eight-stage marathon race around the coast of France starting in Dunkerque on the English Channel and racing 733 nautical miles to finish at the end of July in Nice on the Mediterranean.
This will be the fifth time that Oman Sail competes in the Tour de France a la Voile and the 11-man
squad is aiming for a podium finish.
The 11-man Oman Sail Tour de France squad made up of mixed Omani and French crewmembers has been training for this event since February when they raced the highlight of the Gulf sailing season, Sailing Arabia-The Tour. SpiOuest in the North of France was next on their race card, then the Grand Prix Guyader during which they raced the M34 and the MOD70 and then most recently Normandy Sailing Week.
Driven by Oman Sail's goal of creating a generation of sailors, the project has focussed on giving the Omani crewmembers the widest and best possible learning opportunities by training them on the 70ft trimaran as well as the M34 and the final Tour de France squad includes four Omani sailors, some of whom are on their 5th edition of the Tour.
"Having a fresh new team and having approached the event with a lot more preparation this year, we have hopes of doing well and winning a podium for Oman," said Mohammed Al Mujaini who can't wait for the start. "This will be my third Tour and I am as proud as it is possible to be to have been selected to represent Oman again at such a renowned sailing event."
At Normandy Sailing Week the team was able to measure its performance against two Tour favourites, Franck Cammas on Groupama 34 and Daniel Souben on CourrierDunkerque 3, and while hopes run high for an Oman Sail podium finish, with Nicolas Troussel on Bretagne Credit Mutuel Elite and young talent such as Baptiste Choquenot also fighting for a top spot, the event is going to be a battle to the very end.
"We have been building towards the Tour de France a la Voile since the beginning of the year, I see the event as another phase of our progression," said French skipper and tactician Sidney Gavignet.
The nine-boat fleet will race a combination of offshore, coastal and inshore legs starting with a prologue on Friday, followed by a two-day inshore regatta in Dunkerque before the fleet heads to Dieppe, Granville and Roscoff before being loaded onto trucks for overland shipping to Roses in Spain from where they will race to France's Gruissan, Hyeres and the final weekend in Nice from July 25-27.