Dubai: Setting off from Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club at sunrise and arriving at Dubai as the sun set over the city, yesterday's leg of EFG Bank Sailing Arabia-The Tour, the Gulf region's only long distance offshore sailing race was as spectacular for its scenery as it was for the quality of the racing.
Having held the lead since the first leg from Manama to Doha, Team BAE Systems skippered by Cédric Pouligny was finally caught up by Bertrand Pacé and Dubai based Team AISM.
Leading almost from the start of the leg, AISM kept their cool and held off all challengers in the light breeze all the way to Dubai.
Having been just a quarter point behind BAE Systems after the in-port racing in Abu Dhabi, their win gives them a slender lead of three quarters of a point as they head off for Ras Al Khaimah early morning.
Bertrand Pacé's AISM crew proved that they can not only perform inshore, but offshore as well when they won yesterday's third offshore leg of the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia–The Tour.
Once again sneaking their way into the lead were the three usual suspects – AISM, BAE Systems and EFG Bank (Monaco).
Over the course of the day as the wind built to just over 10 knots, EFG Bank (Monaco) pulled into the lead when team BAE Systems and EFG Bank (Monaco) became involved in their own personal match race. Team BAE Systems also got ahead of the trio for around an hour, but it was once again AISM, winner of the last offshore leg and the last two days of inshore racing that proved the class act, taking line honours into Dubai yesterday just four minutes ahead of BAE Systems, with EFG Bank (Monaco) a further seven minutes behind.
As the boats lined up downwind, during the day the wind was veering and Pacé said their key move was getting on the inside of this shift during the critical gybes. As a result of their victory, AISM has finally pulled into the lead overall ahead of BAE Systems, albeit only by 0.75 points.
"It was a lot of fun - a lot of strategy and positioning and also boat speed, as usual, " said BAE Systems skipper Cédric Pouligny of yesterday's race.
"You had to play some gybes and take some options, it was full VMG sailing, so more of a game, more fun." AISM got ahead of them, according to Pouligny, because of a small communication failure on their part. "We let him go on our right, we didn't react quickly enough and then it was a fight and he overtook us and when we gybed he was ahead of us."
Skipper of EFG Bank (Monaco), Sidney Gavignet, was once again pleased that his team was on the podium again, but less happy about their being in third place.
"It is annoying to be at the back of the top three, but I think it is clearly going to be between the three boats. That is why finishing third is not bad, but not so good..."
Gavignet praised his Omani crew. "Fahad Al Hasni is doing very well on the trim. On the first leg he gave us some very good tips because we did the Tour de France a la Voile before, about moving the crew weight forward and aft. But neither he nor Yasser Al Rahbi liked the early start this morning!"
Dee Caffari's team on Al Thuraya Bank Muscat was holding fourth place for most of the race but got pipped at the post by the capable Dutch student team on Team Delft Challenge – Tu Delft.
After an overnight pit-stop, the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia–The Tour continues on up the UAE coast from Dubai to Ras Al Khaimah. With a forecast that includes rising winds under an overcast sky, the racing looks to be faster than yesterday's leg, and AISM will be looking to use their experience and the momentum of their win to extend their lead. EFG Bank Sailing Arabia–The Tour will reach Ras Al Khaimah, where the crews will rest overnight before taking part in in-port racing today.