It's a record! It was shaved by just under 17 minutes from its previous 75 hours plus, but Sidney Gavignet and the crew of Musandam-Oman Sail were, to say the least, elated as they took their 70-foot trimaran through the finishing line off the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes, at the end of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race.
“We only knew we would break the record at the finish. I'm still surprised - I didn't believe it was possible, but she is fast this boat, we did over 30 knots for most of the time - when we went under that speed it felt slow - I am really happy, we have achieved something we never thought was in reach,” said Oman skipper Sidney Gavignet during a brief stopover in Cowes ahead of setting off for home base in Lorient.
The elapsed time of 3d 3hr 32min 36sec turned into a margin of 16min 38 secs faster than the all-comers record set by Loick Peyron in the giant Banque Populaire in 2011 but smashed by 2d 17hr 54min 19sec the race record set by Franck Cammas in 2010 aboard the not much less of a giant Groupama.
“There was plenty of luck involved with the weather - and our team did a great job, Damian Foxall and I are a solid duo and having Jan Dekker with us and Fahad Al Hasni and Sami and Yassir, who only just started on this boat this year. I am incredibly proud of them and of our team and for the Oman Sail project,” continued Gavignet.
“This is a great way to finish our crewed season - a real high point, before going into the next phase which will be towards the Route du Rhum in November.
“The RDR is a really huge challenge, I feel humbled in the face of it. Taking it easy is not in the vocabulary of this boat, and I am a racer too. It is a gift for me to be facing this challenge and I feel humbled - I am finally maturing and will be taking things step by step.“
Foxall added: “It feels like just yesterday that we left - what a race - we were incredibly lucky with the weather with reaching conditions all the way round - we were able to sustain almost 30 knots all the way round and beat the record by something over 16 minutes - we knew it was theoretically possible but didn't believe it until we crossed the finish line and heard the record-signalling cannon.
“I would put this record up at the top of my lists of achievements - the enormity hasn't really sunk in yet.
“Just to put things into context, two of our Omani crewmates had only stepped on to [this boat] at the beginning of the season and they have made huge progress - they are learning very, very quickly. The fact that we were able to push it that hard around the course is a reflection on the ability of the crew and bodes well for the future of the Oman Sail objectives and project - we are on the right track.“
Abu Dhabi's Azzam, skippered by British Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker, should have no problem in establishing bragging rights in the new 65-foot class which will contest the Volvo round the world race and was expected to finish at lunchtime on Friday as it entered the last 300 miles holding a 50-mile lead over its more recently-launched Spanish rival skippered by Iker Martinez. Alongside Martinez, who will leave the Volvo mid-campaign to concentrate on his 2016 Olympic bid, is French solo ace and would-be America's Cup challenger Michel Desjoyeaux.
But there was all to play for among the other three, where the Chinese boat Dongfeng, nursing not just gear failure but an injured navigator in Pascal Bidegorry, was holding off Sweden's all-woman SCA, skippered by Sam Davies, which was neck and neck with the Turkish-American challenger Alvimedica, skippered by Charlie Enright.