Racing in Arabia: Rich Mason Reviews
Musto ambassador Richard Mason has some serious sailing credentials under his belt already – awarded the prestigious Volvo Ocean Race Rookie Award, a graduate of the Artemis Offshore Academy, and has competed in La Solitaire du Figaro. Now, he’s just returned from a three-and-a-half-week stint at Sailing Arabia: The Tour, as Team Averda’s navigator.
The regatta is held in the beautiful waters of the Persian Gulf and contested in a fleet of Farr 30s. Here’s Richard’s account of February’s race.
I’ve spent the last three-and-a-half weeks in the Middle East, taking part in ‘Sailing Arabia: The Tour’ (SATT), organised by Oman Sail. I was sailing with a great group of lads for Team Averda.
This was my second SATT race. Last time we finished 2nd, so we flew out with the intention of going one better. This year’s competition was tough though, with names like Sidney Gavignet, Fabien Delahaye, Nico Lunven, Cedric Pouligny, Dee Caffari and many more all vying for first place. We were under no illusions that a podium result would be easy.
The race was fought over five offshore legs, covering a total of 750 nautical miles and 3 in-port days. The schedule was tight with only 2 rest days in 15 days of racing. This meant a lot of time on board the ridiculously uncomfortable Farr 30s. However, the same things that make this race a grueling one also make it a great one: from the oil fields and exclusion zones to the constantly shifting sands of the surprisingly shallow Persian Gulf. Not to mention the light and unpredictable winds that, as team navigator, made me want to head downstairs and clean out the boat’s supply of headache pills on a daily basis. There were a huge number of variables to think about, and consequently not a great deal of sleep to be had.
The scenery ranged from utterly barren to stunningly beautiful. During the days we sailed past cliffs that dropped from 1,000m so steeply that our boom scraped their faces as we attempted to shelter from the current. We crossed uncharted mounds of sand, and came across the colossal tugs and barges that move these great mounds of dessert around the Gulf. We saw turtles, dolphins, big fish and small fish, and dodged the nets of the locals taking advantage of the abundance of sea life in this part of the world.
During the night we saw flying fish lit by phosphorescence so bright that they looked like forks of lightning as they tried to escape our bow wave. Some of the oil fields burnt as hot and red as the rising sun – so bright we could leave the head torches downstairs. It was as much a journey of discovery as competitive offshore race series.
For Team Averda, the event began in the best possible way. We won both of the first in-port series and the first offshore leg. As time went on, however, the rest of the fleet found their stride. For veterans of multiple Tour du France à la Voile campaigns, familiarity with the Farr 30s seemed to pay dividends. We held on to our 2nd position overall until the final leg of the tour, when the in-form Al Mouj took the leg win – relegating us to 3rd place overall.
The final standings were:
1st: EFG Bank Monaco, Sidney Gavignet
2nd: Al Mouj, Nico Lunven
3rd: Team Averda, Marcel Herrera
I’m very happy to have spent February in this beautiful part of the world and even though the result wasn’t what we were hoping for, it was still amazing to cram so much racing into such a short period of time.
A big thanks to Marcel Herrera for making it all happen, to our sponsor Averda and the event organisers Oman sail. Race Director Gilles Chiorri deserves a special mention here, too – he did a great job managing the course.
RICH MASON’S SAIL RACE KIT FAVOURITES