Muscat: The coastal waters off Ireland will be transformed into a super fast race track by strong winds for Musandam-Oman Sail, the Sultanate of Oman's flagship Multi One Design 70, raising hopes for setting a new Round Ireland record to kick off their season.
Skipper Sidney Gavignet, along with experienced internationals Neal McDonald, Damian Foxall and Thomas Le Breton, as well as Omani nationals Fahad Al Hasni and Ahmed Al Maamari, faced gale force winds at the start in Dun Laoghaire yesterday. To set a new record, Musandam-Oman Sail has to complete the 708 mile circuit in less than 44 hours and 42 minutes, the record set by sailor, balloonist and adventurer Steve Fossett on his 60 foot trimaran Lakota in 1993. But having studied the weather over the next two days, before the start, Gavignet was confident that the record is in their grasp.
"We have a very good chance of setting a new record, unless we break something," said the veteran Volvo Ocean Race and multi-hull sailor, who is now in his third season as skipper with Oman Sail.
"We are a little short of preparation – we have just gotten back together after more than a month and a half of no sailing, but this attempt will be a good way to sharpen up. It will get us fresh and put us into racing mode. It is more fun this way." The Round Ireland record was chosen deliberately by the Oman Sail team as part of their three week training session, ahead of a busy summer of racing.
In June, Gavignet and his MOD70 crew will take part in the exciting new Route des Princes where multi-hulls, no smaller than 50 foot, will race in stages around Europe between Spain, Portugal, Ireland, the United Kingdom and France.
Originally we were planning on an anticlockwise route and heading north out of Dun Laoghaire, but we were forced to change our plans and delay our start when the winds became too strong.
"Now, we will go clockwise. It will still be pretty rough so Ahmed, who only came on board recently, is in for a baptism of fire, but things should be more manageable. Despite the rain and sleet, there should also be good visibility which will help our attempt."
"I don't want to talk it up too much because this is sailing and you really never know," added Gavignet, who hopes to shave significant time off the record.
Between them, the new Musandam-Oman Sail crew showcases some of the most distinguished careers in professional sailing with McDonald, one of the world's best offshore sailors, having completed six Volvo Ocean Races, including one and a half (Assa Abloy and Ericsson) as skipper.
Irish sailor Foxall is also a Volvo veteran with four campaigns, but he can go one better than McDonald since in 2011-12, he went on to win it as a member of the victorious Groupama crew, having already added the Barcelona World Race title in 2008 to his long list of achievements.
McDonald and Foxall are both new to the Oman Sail MOD70 campaign, but both have competed with and against their new skipper. Gavignet served under McDonald on Assa Abloy in 2001 and trained and raced with Foxall in the Figaro and Admiral's Cup.
"The three of us know each other well and there is a lot of confidence and respect between us, so I feel really well when surrounded by these guys," said Gavignet.
Fahad Al Hasni was part of the MOD70 crew last year, impressing his teammates with his natural helming skills, while Al Maamari was one of the original recruits to Oman Sail when it was established in 2008, and over five years has inspired hundreds of Omani youngsters to take up sailing by venturing off on offshore adventures and learning new skills.
"This Round Ireland attempt will be a big challenge for me, but I am proud to be a member of the Musandam-Oman Sail crew and hope that my adventures will inspire some of our young Omani sailors back home," he said prior to the start.