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Northern Ireland Sailors Compete in Sailing Arabia Tour

30th January 2017
Andrew Baker will skipper Team Averda in the Sailing Arabia Tour next month Andrew Baker will skipper Team Averda in the Sailing Arabia Tour next month

Strangford Lough's Andrew 'Hammy' Baker will skipper Team Averda in February's offshore fixture Sailing Arabia, Here he describes the fortchoming adventure that includes a new crewman, Olympic sailor James Espey from Ballyholme Yacht Club

Coming into the new year and people are looking towards the season ahead. Most are planning their calendar and checking on their boats after the winter but the cold keeps them at bay for now. The thought of sanding down the bottom and polishing topsides can wait another few weeks.

Fortunately, enough I am to be spared the freezing weather and getting back to sailing in the warmer climates of Oman. EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour kicks off from Muscat on the February 13th. The concept is fairly simple;

• 6 great locations
• 5 legs of offshore sailing
• 3 in port races

The event delivers high-level racing which will attract top amateur and professional sailors from all over the world to one in one of the most beautiful sailing destinations. Farr 30s are the boat of choice, lively and relatively simple mean the racing will be very close and intense, stretching each crew to the full, testing their skill, teamwork and versatility. Most importantly it is strict one design. So the top team will win and there can be no excuses from anyone else.

sailing tour arabia routeThe Sailing Tour Arabia route starts in Muscat

I will be skippering Team Averda. Named after our title sponsor Averda, the largest integrated waste management company who founded in 1964 with their corporate HQ in Dubai, now operate in more than fourteen countries.

Last year we managed a very close third place after having led in the early stages so I am confident we are in a good place in this edition. This year’s crew is made up of top offshore and inshore sailors. From the Bow back we have Liam Gardner, a member of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's triumphant shore crew in the 2015 Volvo Ocean Race, Ollie Mellor and Ed Davidson both involved with the MOD70 Team Concise. Navigator or (navi-guesser) Robin Elsey is like myself is a graduate of the Artemis Offshore Academy so I have a lot of experience and confidence working with him from past events. Moving from offshore to inshore racing we have James Espey, who may of us will know has multiple Irish Laser championships under his belt and having represented Ireland in the London 2012 Olympics is keen to get more involved in the world of yacht racing not to mention helping me boost the Irish presence.

Preparation is always key and is all the more relevant in an event such as this with such quick turnaround between legs. Keeping onto of everything and being stress-free could be a huge advantage. With this in mind, we have prepared our meals in advance bringing 170 ‘Wet Meals’ supplemented it with some fresh food when we get out there. Our first port of cal when getting out there is giving the boat a once over. Turning the rig to suit our weight, a swim to check the underside, service winches and blocks etc. We really are planning to leave no stone unturned and intend to leave everything on the race course. If you don’t push hard enough you have no chance of winning, push too hard and you can burn out and the results will suffer. Finding the right rhythm early on will be crucial a lot of which will be dictated by our opposition and the strategies they employ.

Of course, a big part of why we do EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour, is to experience some amazing places and see some extraordinary sights. The schedule is demanding but there is a real incentive to finish first in each leg because you then get to spend more time in the stopovers. if things go well for us, we could end up Go Karting in Doha, skiing in Dubai or lying on a beach at any of these places. Which is just fine with me

For more information on the 2017 edition of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour click here

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