The leaderboard in the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour was in limbo after the second offshore leg from Doha, Qatar, to Abu Dhabi as series leader EFG Bank, skippered by France’s Sidney Gavignet, lodged a protest for foul play against the first boat over the line, the Kay Heemskerk-skippered Team Delft from the Netherlands.
Gavignet claimed that the Dutchman had claimed right of way just before the finish when there was none and so the matter will now be handled by an international jury of three headed by Marina Psicogiou. But not until Friday, when the crews will all be taking a well-earned rest and the country assembles for prayers.
At stake is the lead held by Gavignet, the threat of disqualification for a Dutch team wanting to celebrate its best result so far, and the possible elevation from third place to second for the Plymouth University-based Messe Frankfurt team.
Further problems for Gavignet included having to dislodge the natural hazard of seaweed wrapping itself around the keel – that pushed him back soon after the start – and then having the same problem but this time in the form of a big plastic bag not far from the finish.
Overall, he said it had been a boatspeed test enlivened by the sight of burn-off flares as the six-boat fleet of Mumm 30s picked its way through some oil rigs along the 159-mile course and bolts of lightening which signified a distinctly unfriendly weather front.
Inshore racing resumes on Saturday, by which time the standings will have been made official. Whatever happens, the all-woman team from Oman but skippered by the Californian Kate Pettibone, will have begun to establish a pecking order at fourth overall having once again beaten two other boats from Oman, including the Royal Navy of Oman, skippered by Dartmouth alumnus AbdulAziz al Haisani.
The jury upheld Gavignet’s complaint and disqualified the Dutch. That made Gavignet the winner and pushed Herrera up to second and the women’s team up to third.
A team local team from Abu Dhabi will join the inshore racing on Saturday. Race director Gilles Chiorri is hoping to stage three races close to the shore, though he might have to cut to two in predicted light winds.