Oman's Mohsin al Busaidi yesterday became the first Arab ever to sail non-stop round the world. The 33-year old was aboard Ellen MacArthur's record-breaking 75-foot trimaran re-named Musandam as part of a crew of five and as part of the Sultanate's bid to "reignite Oman's maritime heritage and inspire youngsters to take up sailing."
"This is an incredible achievement for Mohsin who, a year ago, had never stepped onboard an offshore racing multihull," said Dame Ellen, who had set a solo round the world record when the boat was named B&Q.
The boat was skippered by Frenchman Loick Gallon with compatriot Thierry Duprey du Vorsent and two British sailors, Charles Darbyshire and Nick Houchin making up the crew.
They covered 24,000 miles in the 76 days since starting from Oman. "I am so happy, so proud for my country," said al Busaidi. "It has been the most amazing experience of my life."
Starvation and stealth were the unlikely twin focuses of the fifth leg of the Volvo round the world race as the leaders covered the final few miles into Rio de Janeiro. In the 40th day at sea, food was running very low for everyone.
A win which would be the most popular in the boatpark still looked likely for the Swedish entry Ericsson 3, skippered by Magnus Olsson who will be 60 next month with a Nordic crew assembled from both the gnarly and the neophyte and showing the way home to its star-studded stablemate Ericsson 4, skippered by five-times Olympic medallist Torben Grael into his home port.
The race allows competitors - five will complete the 12,300-mile marathon from Qingdao, China - to hide their positions, usually published every three hours, for 12 hours. Ericsson 3 was first to invoke the cloak of secrecy. Ericsson 4, 103 miles behind, immediately followed suit.
Olsson and his men were expected to finish overnight Wednesday with the American entry Puma, skippered by Kenny Read, a further 90 miles behind Grael and the Irish/Chinese-backed entry Green Dragon, still struggling to recover from some unhappy tactical decisions, over 500 miles behind the leader.
In fifth, and with a broken forestay which has hit its performance hard, is Spain's Telefonica Blue.