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Foxall's Oman Sail Sets Round Britain & Ireland Record With Only Minutes To Spare

14th August 2014
oman_sailcrew
All smiles from Damian Foxall (right) and the Oman Sail crew. Photo: Mark Lloyd
Foxall's Oman Sail Sets Round Britain & Ireland Record With Only Minutes To Spare

#rorcsrbi – Big celebrations in Cowes this lunchtime as Ireland's Damian Foxall added the Round Britain and Ireland Speed record time to his impressive offshore sailing CV on board the scratch boat, the Oman Sail MOD 70.

It came down to the wire as the giant MOD claimed the record but with only minutes to spare.

The crew of Musandam-Oman Sail, a MOD70 Trimaran crossed the finish line of the 2014 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race off the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes at 12.42.36 BST on Thursday 14th August 2014 with an elapsed time of 3 days, 03 hours, 32 minutes, 36 seconds. This breaks the previous World Record for a multihull held by Banque Populaire 5 in 2011, by 16 minutes, 38 seconds and is subject to ratification by the World Speed Sailing Record Council.

At 0850 this morning the Kerryman still had 80nm to go and even with boat speeds of 29 knots there was still doubts the MOD 70 could finish before 12:59:14 to claim the record. 

During mid–morning, as some pundits still expected the record to tumble, Foxall reported he was an hour from St Catherines Point and still pushing very hard. Ominously, the crew were expecting winds to get a bit lighter ahead with 42nm to go. It added perfectly to the drama of the three day record breaking dash of over 1,800 miles.

At noon, the giant Oman Sail Trimaran gybed for the finish line, hearts sinking at the prospect of Foxall missing the record by minutes. 

With 50 mins to go and 11 miles to the finish it was nail biting stuff. The MOD was doing 23 knots, but crucially the breeze was SW breeze giving the weary crew a beat against the tide.  

At 12.30 the distance was only 4.4nm with 28 minutes left to claim the record. The situation now looked much more promising than it had done only half an hour earlier. At 12.45 there was just a mile of their 1800 mile odyssey left to sail.

In the end, there was a margin of quarter of an hour. They had done it! Oman Sail had line honours and beaten the world record by 16m 38s, significantly in a boat 60ft shorter than the previous record holder.

It was almost unthinkable that a 70ft trimaran, with no ability to decide when to start, could defeat a 140ft trimaran that had decided exactly when to set off. However a fantastic boat, a perfect performance and an extraordinary series of coincidences lined up to make the impossible a reality.

Co–Skipper, Sidney Gavignet:

"I didn't think this was possible but we had exceptional conditions and a boat with amazing potential that was used properly. I know this course well because I have the solo record for the Round Britain and Ireland. I like it; it is a great course, very challenging, and I am very thankful to Sevenstar and the RORC for organising this race. Loick Peyron was the record holder and he phoned me after we crossed the line to say congratulations. He is a gentleman and someone I really respect as a sailor and a person but I know he will want his record back!

We have been the only multihull this time but I hope all of the others will now think that they should have been here, maybe next time they will. The Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland is a great event and very well managed and nothing needs to be changed, especially not the weather.

I am especially pleased for the three Omani crew. Fahad has been with the MOD 70 from the beginning of the project and we know each other well and we have made a lot of progress. We crossed an ocean twice together and he is experienced. With Sammi and Yasser, we did the Tour of Arabia together a few years ago. They are nice boys but at the time I thought there was no chance that they could make it in a boat like this. They went to Kiel with Damian (Foxall) to do some corporate sailing but that was their only experience before this race. Now I am so impressed with them, I have totally changed my mind - they have great potential because they understand the boat and the big loads involved. Their attitude is great and despite very rough conditions they were not seasick. I am so happy for Oman Sail.

Looking to the future, the Route du Rhum is the big race for Musandam-Oman Sail and in February we have the Tour of Arabia in Farr 30s. With regards to the RORC Caribbean 600, which is at the same time as the Tour of Arabia, we are thinking about it. This boat is made for the Caribbean 600 and it is always nice to show the boat to new people; on that course she would be a bird that can fly higher! We have not finalised our programme for next year but it is possible."

Co–Skipper Damian Foxall:

"We hit a new top speed for the boat of 43 knots right at the start. You really need the right conditions, perfect trim and the time to set that up to get to that speed and we hardly ever dropped below 25 knots the whole way round. Jan Dekker has done a huge amount of multihull sailing, including winning the America's Cup but when we were blasting down the West coast of Ireland, he turned to me and said, 'Don't you think Sidney should be thinking about preserving the boat for the Route du Rhum?' I said, 'Go and tell him that, he's going for the record right now!' We had in the back of our minds that it was possible - a long shot but it wasn't until we got to the Fastnet, where the wind was not as light as we expected, we were still doing 30 knots and we were thinking - OK this could be possible!

The hard thing about a race record, as opposed to a course record, is that with a course record, you can wait until the weather is perfect and you just go. In a racing format you don't have that option; it is an amazing coincidence that we have had this weather pattern precisely when a race, that is only run every four years, was taking place. Even the tides were with us at the start and the finish! This record was on because of an amazing series of coincidences; the final incredible fact is that the only time we tacked in an 1800 mile circular course was after we had gone through the finish line!

MOD 70 Musandam-Oman Sail crew
Skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA) and team mates Yassir Al Rahbi (OMA), Sami Al Shukaili (OMA), Fahad Al Hasni (OMA), Jan Dekker (SA), and co-skipper Damian Foxall (IRL)

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