Muscat: With a five-point lead over Bretagne Credit Mutuel Elite, Oman Sail's M34 Team has maintained the third place overall going into the second half of the Tour de France a la Voile.
The crew is taking a well-earned break while the nine-boat Tour de France a la Voile fleet is shipped overland from Roscoff in the north of France to Roses in the northernmost corner of Spain on the Mediterranean, where racing is due to restart on Friday July 18th with another round of inshore races.
The mixed Omani and European team fought back from unsatisfying results at the Granville in-port race last Friday where they posted a 6th, a 5th and a 7th to finish the day focussed as they tuned in for the final offshore leg in the north of France from Granville to Roscoff.
They reclaimed their third step on the podium behind Courier Dunkerque in first place overall and Groupama 34 in second after a 17-hour race.
Bretagne-Credit Mutuel Elite was just two points behind in fourth place going into the final day of in-port racing in Roscoff on Sunday during which Oman Sail posted a 3rd and 2nd place.
The fleet raced a last coastal sprint on Monday before packing up to head south to the Mediterranean on Tuesday.
Bowman Ali Al Balushi, one of the four Omani sailors onboard since Granville, is more determined than ever to consolidate their third place overall and maintain it into the final in Nice. "We recovered well from our Granville in-port areas of development and put them right in Roscoff — our tactics were better and we worked really hard to get back on top. It was particularly special as we were four Omani sailors onboard for the first time".
"We have made a lot of progress since last year, consistently sailing in the top three boats. Of course, we have made some errors, which we try to learn from and going into the Mediterranean stage, we will need to find our way a little bit with two new crewmembers stepping in. Cedric Pouligny will step in for skipper Sidney Gavignet on tactics for the in port racing and we will also have Guillaume Beranger with us. The crew will continue to rotate so that we all stay fresh and push as hard as we can towards our end goal."
The strategy for the second half of the Tour is to maintain the consistency and focus that the team has shown so far, as helmsman and multiple Tour de France winner, Damian Iehl explains: "There has been a lot of work since the beginning of the season and it is really paying off, the crew is very tight and solid. The next stage of the Tour is all about consistency, managing fatigue and learning from our errors during the first half of the event. It is really up to us to exploit our potential. The methodology is good, there is no reason at all why we can't claim our third step on the podium in Nice."
The fleet was craned out of the water on Monday night to be loaded on to trucks for the overland trip to Spain where racing is due to restart in Roses on Friday July 18th with another round of in port racing before the next offshore leg on Saturday from Roses to Gruissan. With nine boats competing in the 733-nautical miles race, the Tour de France a la Voile entails a combination of offshore, coastal and inshore legs, giving the Omani crewmembers the widest and best possible learning experience against leading international sailors. The eight-stage marathon race started on July 4 from Dunkerque on the English Channel and will finish in Nice on July 27.