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Ireland's top offshore sailor Damian Foxall, a Round the World Race winner, will compete in June's 2016 Volvo Round Ireland (VRI) Race from Wicklow. Kerryman Foxall will race on the MOD 70 Musandam – OmanSail, one of two of the fastest multihulls in the world to enter the Irish classic.

Ned Collier-Wakefield will bring the second MOD 70, Concise 10, to Wicklow having picked up his weight in rum as the prize for winning the Grand Prix Multihull event. Wakefield alos smashed the all-time course record in the Mount Gay Rum Round Barbados Race in March.

Musandam – OmanSail holds the record for a circumnavigation of the island of Ireland under sail, achieved in May of last year and the team are looking forward to beating this record in a race setting. The Omani team in 2016 will be much the same as last year, under skipper Sidney Gavignet

The official race record for a monohull is held by Mike Slade who completed the race in 2 days 17 hours 48 minutes 47 seconds in ICAP Leopard 3 in 2008.

This record was under threat once George David signalled his intention to enter Rambler 88 in the 2016 VRI race. Rambler was first monohull home in last November's Rolex Middle Sea Race 2015.

Published in Round Ireland

Hurtling around the Caribbean at speeds in excess of 30 knots and topping out nearer 40, often barely a boat length apart, the epic duel between MOD70s Concise 10 and Phaedo3 came to a conclusion after 32 hours of hot racing earlier this week. Lloyd Thornburg's MOD70 Phaedo3, co-skippered by Brian Thompson with Damian Foxall onboard crossed the finish line at Fort Charlotte in an elapsed time of 31 hours, 59 minutes, 04 seconds, breaking their own multihull race record set last year by 1 hour 34 minutes 26 seconds.

Barely out of sight of each other the entire race, Tony Lawson's MOD70 Concise 10, skippered by Ned Collier Wakefield was just 9mins 52 seconds behind. The superyachts in Falmouth Harbour heralded the arrival of Phaedo3 and Concise 10 with a cacophony of horns as hundreds of race fans gathered dockside to cheer the two teams to the dock.

 

Published in RORC
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#vor – The Volvo Ocean Race fleet has slightly converged in the past 12 hours as they approach the corner of the South American continent, where the Brazilian coast sketches a right angle at the end of the most easterly littoral of Brazil.
At Cape Calcanhar, located 40 nm north of the city of Natal, there is a lighthouse of 62 meters height that is the tallest in Brazil.
Dongfeng Race Team will approach this point holding an 8.1 nm lead on MAPFRE, who are just half of mile ahead of Team Brunel. 10 nm behind the lead back is Team SCA, currently the most easterly of the six boats, out of the trail of the pack.
Also 10 nm off the leading group is Team Alvimedica, only 0.5 nm miles ahead of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
Once the fleet has passed the shoulder of the continent, they will take up their positions to deal with the doldrums. The good news is that at the moment the routing is showing no big drama to deal with the Intertropical Convergence Zone.
The fleet will be crossing the Equator around Tuesday noon.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#fastnet – The world's largest, most diverse fleet of offshore racing yachts will set sail from the Solent on 16th August in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial Rolex Fastnet Race. 2015 marks the 90th anniversary of the Royal Ocean Racing Club and with it a record-sized fleet with as many as 350 boats expected to take part. Ireland's Damian Foxall will be one of many Irish sailors competing. The Round the world veteran will be on board Musandam-Oman Sail.

As ever the 603 mile course takes the fleet west along the south coast of England, across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock off the tip of southwest Ireland, south around Bishop Rock and the Scilly Isles and back east to the finish in Plymouth. Conditions on the race course can range from benign and summery to vicious and stormy and the event is well remembered for the horrific conditions in 1979 that claimed the lives of 15 competitors. Fortunately vast improvements in weather forecasting, safety and communications equipment as well as yacht design over the intervening years mean that a repeat of this disaster today is unlikely.

The Rolex Fastnet Race is also one of the most popular events in sailing: the original limit of 300 boats racing for the overall handicap prize under IRC was increased to 340 in 2013 due to the increased demand. This is more than twice as many places as the next most popular of other 600 mile races held elsewhere the world and still, when registration opened in January, all 340 places were filled within just 24 minutes! In addition to this group is the 'non-IRC' fleet, including many top grand prix race boat classes such as the IMOCA 60s, that compete in the Vendee Globe singlehanded non-stop round the world race, and the Class 40s.

As always, one of the attractive elements of the Rolex Fastnet Race is its diversity. At one end of the spectrum are the high profile professional sailing teams who congregate on the Solent from the four corners of the globe, many fielding the world's biggest, fastest, most state of the art racing yachts. At the other end are the Corinthian entries, where individual crew will be embarking on what for them will be their own personal Everest - the culmination of a season's training that will have included at least 300 miles of offshore racing (the mandatory requirement to qualify for Rolex Fastnet Race entry).

One of the important battles is the race for monohull line honours which this year looks set to be a much anticipated heavyweight bout between the two brand new American maxis: George David's 88ft Rambler 88 and the 100ft Comanche of Jim Clark. Both are brand new, launched late last year and some gauge of their form will take place when both compete in the Transatlantic Race between Newport, Rhode Island and the Lizard (and on to Cowes).

Another battle to watch out for will be the battle of the multihulls which this year includes the world's fastest race boat - the 131ft (40m) trimaran, Spindrift racing, skippered by Yann Guichard and Dona Bertarelli. In 2009 this boat covered 908.2 miles a day at an average speed of 37.84 knots and has been first home in the last two Rolex Fastnet Races.

However nipping at her heels will be the three MOD70 trimarans including Musandam-Oman Sail, skippered by Sidney Gavignet. This boat last year sailed an exceptional Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, setting not only a race record time, but also becoming the outright record holder for the Round Britain and Ireland course.

"I am looking forward to this race," says Gavignet of the Rolex Fastnet. "It is the big race of our season, so we take it seriously. It has such an impressive line-up. Races like the Fastnet are very important for sailing because it is a classic and you know that it will always be there every two years."

Once again Musandam-Oman Sail will be using the event in its continued programme of training up Omani sailors and three will be competing on board alongside Gavignet and round the world sailor Damian Foxall.

At the Corinthian end of the fleet, charter and sailing school entries are swelling in number. Typically these companies sell berths to individuals for the season enabling them to carry out their qualifications.

Hamble School of Yachting, for example, is fielding two Jeanneau Sun Fast 37s, each with six amateur crew plus a professional skipper and mate. "It is a bucket list item - something they have always wanted to do," says Director Chris Rushton of the attraction to his customers. "They are all first timers of mixed ability but a lot of them haven't done any racing before."

Their crew have already completed their ISAF Sea Survival and First Aid courses and this season will compete in the RORC's Myth of Malham, De Guingand Bowl and Cowes-Dinard-St Malo races as their qualification.

Eddie Warden Owen, Chief Executive of the Royal Ocean Racing Club explains the uniqueness of the Rolex Fastnet Race:

"The Rolex Fastnet Race is a world classic and probably the largest, most famous of its type. This year the demand has been huge with places selling out in 24 minutes and a waiting list of over 80 boats. The challenge for many is completing what can be a very tough adventure, but also its attraction for the experienced offshore racer is that they can compete with the top professionally raced yachts and have a realistic chance of winning. In 2013 the race was won by a very experienced father and son team sailing two handed which shows that anyone has a chance of winning the most prestigious race in the world calendar."

Published in Fastnet
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#vor – Dongfeng Race Team with Ireland's Damian Foxall onboard announced late last night that they plan to retire from Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race after breaking their mast in the Southern Ocean. Skipper Charles Caudrelier had considered attempting to re-join the 6,776-nautical mile stage from Auckland to Itajaí after successfully nursing Dongfeng to Ushuaia, Argentina, earlier in the day.

But on Tuesday night, a statement from the team read: "The decision has been made to motor-sail to Itajaí and not rejoin the race – although skipper Caudrelier has yet to officially retire from the leg at this time, it is just a matter of protocol now.

"He will not relish this part of the administrative process and if there had been any other timely and effective way to rejoin the race and get to Brazil, he would have undoubtedly taken it.

"But even under motor-sail the delivery trip is expected to take around 10-12 days and then add the days needed to refit the boat in time for the start of Leg 6 to Newport.

"Trying to rejoin the race which would mean returning to the point they started using the engine at the western entrance of the (Beagle) Channel then sail south around Cape Horn would prove to be too risky, especially with rig and sails not fully fit for racing.

"It wasn't safe to enter the Beagle Channel without the engine, even if it would have left more options for a racing departure."

By motoring to Itajaí, they will buy some time to make the repairs ready to start Leg 6 to Newport - although it will still be tight. The fleet is due to depart on April 19.

Dongfeng Race Team plan to leave Ushuaia for Itajaí on Wednesday evening.

At 0315 on Monday, a sickening crack had signaled to Caudrelier and his crew that the top section of the mast had fractured, leaving the boat without full manoueverability.

The decision means that Dongfeng Race Team, who were joint leaders with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) at the start of the leg, will collect eight points for a Did Not Finish result.

In the latest position report at 1840 UTC on Tuesday, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing led by 8.8nm from Cape Horn pace-setters, Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA)

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#vor – New dramatic footage of Damian Foxall's stricken Volvo Ocean Race men on the dismasted Dongfeng has emerged with crew man Kevin Escoffier up the mast cutting away the damage as the crew make the necessary sacrifices to stabilise the situation working to secure the mast before entering the Beagle Channel. There's frustration in the Southern Ocean for the Chinese team as Escoffier breaks his grinder while cutting the sail free and as darkness falls it's a race against time for the determined men of Dongfeng.

For the professional offshore sailors of the world, mast breakages (or any sort of damage to the boat) is an unfortunate occupational hazard. That's not to downplay the devastation and disappointment of what happened but for sailors like Damian Foxall, Charles Caudrelier, Martin Strömberg and even Pascal Bidégorry, dismasting in the Southern Ocean is an unfortunate case of déjà vu. These men have been there and done that.

For our rookie Chinese sailors on the other hand, the experience has been shocking, scary and bewildering. The reaction of Liu Xue (Black) is understandably in contrast to the pro crew who know how to manage these kinds of situations. Seen through his eyes, it is a heart wrenching reaction...

Liu Xue (Black): "Speechless, really speechless, I still can't believe this is true. You know one day, only one day we will have passed Cape Horn. Just one step and my dream will have come true, what a shame!"

"I thought a lot when the accident happened. What I wanted to do the most is to let my family to know that I'm safe. Because as the race is going and with more and more media coverage going out, my family started to know more about this leg. My mom was concerned about my safety a lot at some point. Actually there's nothing special, I know that I wouldn't be able to speak with them, I just would like them to know that I'm all good, that's it.

"I was sleeping below when the accident happened, I was shocked when I came on the deck. I have the feeling all the time that this is like in a movie. The 'scenes' of this leg is been played quickly in my brain. I'm not reconciled at all – the team worked closely and we fought so hard. And it's all gone in no time. Nothing left. We were only 240nm and 10 hours away from realising the dream.

"In this short 10 minutes, my dream has been crushed. We've been through so many suffering days before, we fought so hard just for this.

"Our skipper is surprisingly calm this time. He's too calm, we don't even have the feeling that he's just been through such frustration. Probably it's because he has his old mates Pascal, Damian and Martin onboard, and (their presence) gives him energy.

"The presence of Damian is the key of solving this problem. Because he's there, we were not in a panic. His makes us feel confident.

"Pascal is like a kind father this time. He came and touched Wolf's head and my head, comforting us 'it's going to be ok, we still have chance and time'. He even made a joke with me. He told me when he attempted to sail around the Cape Horn 14 years ago, the mast was also broken, and it took them 22 days to reach the Cape Horn after the damage happened, so we are actually lucky this time.

"Everyone's reaction after what happened made me feel warm and touched. Actually I didn't cry, I was just sad. But I wouldn't feel ashamed even if I cry, because the journey of this leg is marvellous. We are learning something new about the ocean every day, we respect the ocean, and also looking forward for the next challenge.

At the beginning of this project, managing expectations of our Chinese sponsors was key. This is ocean racing, something will happen, we have some very inexperienced sailors onboard we must take precautions. Then naturally when something like this happens, telling our partners is not easy. But the support from our partners has been outstanding and demonstrates their appreciation of what taking on the Volvo Ocean Race really means.

"We are sad to know the failure of the mast but happy to know all the team are safe. Please let Charles and his team know we are always with them, safety first, then try to repair the boat and get ready for next fighting!" Gary Huang, Vice President of Dongfeng Trucks.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#vor – County Kerry's Damian Foxall, one of the biggest names in offshore sailing, is joining the Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) for the forthcoming treacherous Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race.
Caudrelier and Foxall were on the Groupama boat that won the 2011-12 edition. The Irishman was the natural choice when Dongfeng's skipper looked for an experienced sailor to bolster his line-up for the 6,776-nautical mile (nm) stage from Auckland to Itajaí, Brazil, through the Southern Ocean and round Cape Horn.
Foxall, who has competed in four previous Volvo Ocean Races, arrived in Auckland fresh from victory in the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour (SATT), sailing with the renowned French sailor, Sidney Gavignet. He said on Thursday that he was thrilled to link up again with Caudrelier, who has guided his China-backed team to joint top of the current race standings.
"I am delighted to be back 'in the saddle'. This will be the 10th round-the-world event that I will be involved in and my eighth rounding of Cape Horn," he said. "It is a privilege to have the opportunity to join Charles and the boys onboard Dongfeng who have been doing such an exemplary job. My role is to fit in as seamlessly as possible and to bring the benefit of a fresh person to the team.
"It is hard to overstate the difficulty of the Volvo Ocean Race for the sailors and teams, the longest sporting event in any sport, and it is exactly this, the duration, that makes it so hard. A planned rotation of the crew at key times has become a crucial part of any successful team's strategy."
Caudrelier agrees. "This leg is going to be a tough, freezing cold, with big seas and strong winds – only the toughest sailors can endure it," he said.
Foxall could not be joining the race at a more challenging time. The first three boats finished the 5,264nm Leg 4 within just over eight minutes of each other after 20 days at sea with MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP) becoming the fourth team to win a leg.
Dongfeng Race Team won the second leg into their home port of Sanya from Abu Dhabi in January.
Foxall will replace Thomas Rouxel (FRA) on this leg, continuing the crew rotation programme set by Caudrelier to ensure his eight-man crew are fighting fit and bringing fresh energy into the team.
Navigator, Pascal Bidégorry (FRA), is back and will undoubtedly find the Southern Ocean leg less painful than being rested on land as he was for Leg 4. Caudrelier has yet to confirm which of his Chinese sailors will sail in the forthcoming stage.
The crew will be announced next week for the leg, which sets off on Sunday, March 15.

Damian Foxall's four Volvo Ocean Race appearances

2001-02 (Tyco)
2005-06 (Ericsson)
2008-09 (Green Dragon)
2011-12 (Groupama sailing team)

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#tourofarabia – Cork and Kerry offshore sailors continue a strong performance in the Persian Gulf this week with Damian Foxall's Oman sail/EFG crew outwitting Crosshaven's David Kenefick sailing on Team Averda to lead the Tour of Arabia. 'Brutal conditions' were reported over the course of the latest 1100–mile leg with two boats in the seven boat fleet pushing speedo logs up through the hull in slamming wave conditions. 

A third place in the final leg was enough to confirm Frenchman Sidney Gavignet and his mixed Omani and European team overall winners of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour for the second year in a row. EFG Bank (Monaco) were not the only champions in Bahrain on Saturday however with the new Volvo Ocean Race Rookie Award for the top two Under 30 sailors of the event going to Team Renaissance Omani sailor, Ali Al Balushi and British sailor from the University of Plymouth team, Richard Mason.

A course change from east to west for the 2015 edition resulted in 14-days of testing upwind racing on the six-leg, 760-nautical mile course from Oman to Bahrain. Noted for being one of the toughest on record, the 11 pro-am racing teams with crews from 21 different nations experienced a truly unique, highly competitive, cultural adventure.

Gavignet and crew; Damian Foxall (IRL), Alex Pella (ESP), Nicolas Lunven (FRA), Fabien Delahaye (FRA), Mohammed Al Mujaini (OMA), Abdull Rahman Al Mashari (OMA), and Abdallah Al Shukaili (OMA), sailed an impressive series but they didn't have it all their own way.

They were chased hard throughout by Marcel Herrera and his young student team from Plymouth University on Team Averda, who took second overall, and Zain Sailing Team from Kuwait headed by seasoned Tour competitor Cédric Pouligny with Gérald Véniard navigating, who finished third.

Gavignet was delighted with the result: "It feels good to have achieved the goal we set, we had a great atmosphere onboard, which I believe helped our performance."

"It is clearly harder and longer than previous editions. I believe the tougher it is, the more its reputation will grow particularly for pro Volvo Ocean Race teams looking for a training ground."

The three Omanis onboard the EFG Bank (Monaco) winning team, plus the Omani Renaissance crew and Navy of Oman team are testimony to Oman Sail's vision of developing the region's sailing talent and rekindling its rich maritime heritage through creating role models to inspire the next generation of sailors.

Kerry-born Damian Foxall, Ireland's greatest offshore sailor, was enthusiastic about the progress made: "This event is a good tool to validate the progress of the Omanis. In previous years the crews struggled to visualise what the life of a professional sailor could be like. Now I think they like the idea which helps them progress quicker."

As one of the toughest on record, the 2015 event has endorsed its status as a prime option for professional teams seeking winter training venues and for young aspiring offshore sailors seeking a race that will put them to the test. Volvo Ocean Race recognition of the event as a leading development race for young offshore sailors and the new Volvo Rookie Award for the top two Under 30 sailors has added another avenue of competition. This year's lucky recipients will be flown to Newport, one of the Volvo stopovers for a weekend to watch the in port and pro am racing.

"EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is tough, even for hardened Irish sailors like me," said Foxall. "But the Tour package makes life really easy for teams that want to just turn up and race. You can concentrate on the sailing and not have to worry about boat prep because there's a technical team on hand all the way."

Three members of the Chinese Volvo Ocean Race team Dongfeng used the event as a tool to enhance their performance. Kit Cheng from Hong Kong said: "It was tougher than Leg 3 of the Volvo, so for training purposes, it is perfect!"

Second placed Marcel Herrera, skipper of British boat Team Averda, was thrilled with his result: "This shows consistency and proves that last year wasn't just a fluke. I am very happy with our result."

The all-Omani team who finished fifth aboard Team Renaissance gave an indication of how the Omani sailors have progressed. Their best result was a second place on Leg 5 – the toughest in the five-year history of the event. Fahad Al Hasni, a regular on the Oman Sail MOD70 trimaran and skipper for EFG SATT, said: "We have improved such a lot as a team, and I have every reason to believe we'll be on the podium in 2016."

With more and more teams recognising EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour as a prime event on the global circuit, this unique Middle East sailing adventure is on the brink of progressing to a new level with the potential of an even larger, more competitive fleet next year.

Overall Results

EFG Bank (Monaco) 12pts
Team Averda (UK) 21.25pts
Zain (KUW) 29.50pts
TU Delft (NED) 29.75pts
Renaissance (OMA) 39pts
Al Thuraya (OMA) 41.75pts
Bienne Voile (SUI) 42.75pts
GAC powered by DongFeng (CHN) 44.50pts
OMIFCO (OMA) 64pts
Royal Navy Oman (OMA) 69pts
IMCO (OMA) 70.25pts

Published in Offshore

#SailingArabia – After 21 hours of racing, Ireland's top offshore sailor Damian Foxall on EFG Bank (Oman) has won the opening leg of the Tour of Arabia. Second was Royal Cork's David Kenefck as a driver/trimmer on Team Avera. 

The wind increased to eight knots for a time before the finish for Foxall to cross the line on a close reach with spinnakers up. Although winds remain light, the Race officer is optimistic that all eleven boats will finish within the time limit. 

As Afloat.ie reported a week ago, The Tour is contested in a fleet of Farr 30 yachts and visits marinas in the Arabian Gulf. The event started at Muscat, then follows the fleet to Sohar and around the Musandam Peninsula to the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain.

Published in Racing

#offshore – A record number of teams – including Ireland's Damian Foxall and David Kenefick–  will line up at the start of the annual EFG Sailing Arabia – the Tour (SATT) on February 15.

Cork based Kenefck will be a driver/ trimmer on Team Avera. Foxall is teamed up with the Oman crew. 

Since EFG SATT was first launched in 2011, the fleet has crossed the start line in Bahrain and finished in Oman's capital city of Muscat but in 2015, the 760 nautical mile route has been reversed with 11 boats starting their campaigns at Muscat's premier waterfront development The Wave.

They will finish approximately 15 days later at the Amwaj Marina in Manama, Bahrain's newest marina, having completed six legs and two inshore races across seven different stopovers, which showcase the best marinas and facilities in the Gulf region including a new venue at Sohar in Oman.

The course change for this unique endurance event was designed to create a more exacting test for sailors in the form of strong and sustained headwinds in the early stages of the race, a move that has resulted in a higher entry level among teams in Europe and the Gulf looking for challenging racing and training opportunities with warm waters and a stable breeze.

"It is a great opportunity to get to know a new sailing area and we were drawn by the prospect of spending some time in warm, sunny conditions during the long European winter," said Bienne Voile skipper Lorenz Muller.

"Also, the concept of combining inshore races with legs is just very attractive. EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour has become the perfect successor of the Tour de France a la Voile, which has now omitted the legs in its new format."

In 2014, Sidney Gavignet's EFG Bank (Monaco) were crowned SATT champions and this year, the French skipper has returned with a new team, assembled with two key objectives: to win the event for the second consecutive year and give three young Omani sailors an opportunity to race alongside world-class professionals.

"We will start as favourites which is fair enough because we won last year and I am comfortable with that. We have a good team and we are professionals so winning is very important," said Gavignet whose crew includes one of the most accomplished offshore sailors in the world, Damian Foxall from Ireland.

"The new route, which features more upwind sailing will be more tactical and also harder physically for the teams but that should favour us because of our offshore experience. The harder the route, the better it is for us."

The line-up for this year's EFG Sailing Arabia – the Tour, the only Pan-GCC offshore sailing race of its kind in the region, features six teams from Oman and one, ZAIN Kuwait from Kuwait. Team Averda is made up mainly of young British sailors skippered by German sailor Marcel Herrera while Bienne Voile will be flying the flag for Switzerland, Team Delft for The Netherlands and GAC powered by Dongfeng for China.

"We have a very solid team and our guys are going to love the Farr 30 because they are like a big dinghy," said GAC skipper Nick Moloney whose crew is made up mainly of Chinese Olympic class sailors.

"Night sailing could be interesting and there will be a lot of it during the 760nms course but that will be the same for most of the crews.

"Tactics will be difficult for anyone who hasn't sailed the course which is everyone because it is being run backwards! I'm sure there will be some struggles but this is new to us and we love new challenges."

"We like the concept of changing the route to make it more challenging being an upwind race, therefore a lot more strain will be put on the boats, crews and time limits in general," added Herrera who last year came second on the EU-flagged Messe Frankfurt Sailing Team.

"We would really like to compete with the top of the fleet, and even occasionally mix for the chances of a podium finish on some of the legs and inshore races."

The first 100 miles of the first leg from Muscat to the International Maritime College Oman, are expected to be upwind and tough while the next leg, which at 172 miles is the longest of the event, takes the fleet around the Musandam Peninsula to Ras Al Khaimah, where fishing boats and nets pose a real hazard. The boats then head off on short hops to Dubai where the first of two inshore race days will be staged, then to Abu Dhabi.

The Four Seasons Marina at Doha will host the next stopover and the winning team will be presented with their trophy at the finish in Bahrain on February 28th.

Schedule:

Leg 1 – 15th February, Muscat- Sohar
Leg 2 – 17th February, Sohar – RAK
Leg 3 – 19th February, RAK - Dubai
Leg 4 – 23rd February, Dubai - Abu Dhabi
Leg 5 – 24th February, Abu Dhabi – Doha
Leg 6 – 26th February, Doha - Manama

Published in Offshore
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