All photos © Lloyd Images
Red Bull Sailing Team on course for first ever Extreme Sailing Series Act win
If yesterday's racing was all about the new talent, today's was about experience with the established teams using their knowledge of the short stadium style race courses to make the most of the light winds at the Extreme Sailing Series in Muscat, Oman. As the stage is set for the final day, the battle has a familiar mix of Red Bull Sailing Team, The Wave, Muscat and Alinghi who are vying for points at the top of the Act 1 leaderboard but it was Austria's double Olympic winning light air specialist Roman Hagara who was the man of match, with four race wins for Red Bull Sailing Team which could have set his team on a course for their first ever Act win. And it was all broadcast to homes around the Sultanate of Oman live on national broadcaster Oman TV, national radio station Hala FM and to fans around the world through the online video stream.
Dockside this morning Hagara said he was looking for consistency and today he found it. "We had a good day and we're some points ahead now which is quite nice for the last day. It will still be a hard day because the final race is double points, so in the end it can always change but we try to stay focused and then do our best for tomorrow. This team deserve to win their first event together, last year we were always close we had really good first days and then one bad day and dropped back so I think its time for our team and just maybe we can do it!"
In the light breeze, the starts played a critical role in the team's tactics today, and with few gains to be made on the racecourse, mistakes were punished hard. By the defending champion Leigh McMillan's standards, it was a disappointing day for his team on The Wave, Muscat, and even they fell victim to the light winds, picking up a penalty in the sixth race, which proved costly. The team have a 15 point deficit from Red Bull Sailing Team, but known for their ability to fight back on the final day, you can be sure McMillan will come out all guns blazing tomorrow. Dockside he shared his thoughts on the competition this year. Watch the video here.
Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi had the wind in their sails again today, and if it wasn't for a sour twist on the end of a beautiful day for the Swiss America's Cup winning team when they were given a penalty for hitting the mark causing them to fall from second to sixth, they would be in second place going into the final day. The team last enjoyed being on the Extreme Sailing Series podium in Almeria, Spain in 2011 where they won the Act and skipper Bertarelli is hoping tomorrow could be the day to turn that around. "We are happy that we are sailing better then we have in the past and it feels good to be in a podium position. We will see what happens. It is tricky in the light winds but we have a new tactician (Morgan Larson) and he is making some good calls. He won the event here last year and it is working well. The plan is to start ahead, stay ahead and finish first."
Robert Greenhalgh has made quite an impact on his return to the Extreme Sailing Series and after a five year respite, the inaugural Series winner has lost none of his spark. Skippering the invitational team, Team Duqm Oman, the team are within punching distance of the podium, leading the second half of the fleet in fourth place. "I think at the back of my mind we would like to be flying towards podium positions, but we're happy! It's obviously such close racing, it's very competitive and tough racing, it can go anywhere at any stage as you can see from the results, but as a new team, we've got to be pretty pleased! With lighter winds and very tight racing, its just all about learning and seeing what does and doesn't work and that's just about having the experience in the fleet."
The new Kiwi skippers onboard Team Korea and GAC Pindar both had another solid day, and are quickly adapting to the Extreme 40 racecourse, with their respective skippers Olympic Silver medallist Peter Burling, and world number five ranked match racer William Tiller both securing finishes in the top half of the fleet. Realteam's new skipper Jerome Clerc – a multihull expert in the D35, who was winning races in his first day on the Extreme 40 racecourse has struggled in the light breeze as have SAP Extreme Sailing Team, but known for their last day ability to deliver, particularly in the final double pointer, the battle is far from over.
And so the stage is set for the final day. Could Red Bull Sailing Team be on course for their first ever Act win? Will Alinghi finish on the podium for the first time since 2011? Will defending champion Leigh McMillan find his form tomorrow and pull it out of the bag? Or will one of the new skippers step up to the mark? As always nothing is a certainty and with the final double points race, it's all to play for.
Results after Day 3: (21 races)
1st Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Pierre Le Clainche, Graeme Spence 177pts
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Musab Al Hadi, Hashim Al Rashdi 162pts
3rd Alinghi (SUI) Ernesto Bertarelli, Morgan Larson, Pierre Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 159pts
4th Team Duqm Oman (OMA) Robert Greenhalgh, Bleddyn Mon, Will Howden, Andrew Walsh, Nasser Al Mashari 129pts
5th Team Korea (KOR) Peter Burling, Blair Tuke, Mark Bulkeley, Sungwok Kim, Matt Cornwell 120pts
6th GAC Pindar (NZL) Will Tiller, Brad Farrand, Stewart Dodson, Harry Thurston, Shaun Mason 116pts
7th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Kostner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Nicolai Sehested 112pts
8th Realteam (SUI) Jerome Clerc, Bryan Mettraux, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Cédric Schmidt, Thierry Wasem 107pts
Back to the drawing board for The Wave, Muscat as Team Duqm Oman defends fourth going into tomorrow's final day of racing (from Oman Sail)
With the onset of the Omani weekend, thousands of spectators crammed the beach off The Wave, Muscat for the penultimate day of Extreme Sailing Series racing.
For a second day in a row the wind was light, never rising above seven knots before dying completely. However it was enough time for the Extreme 40s to sail eight races. Unfortunately for The Wave, Muscat team, the lake-like conditions favoured the teams from landlocked countries. The team started today level on points with Red Bull Sailing Team, but the Austrians had an immaculate day, and start tomorrow's grand finale 15 points ahead.
"Today was a difficult day for us," admitted The Wave, Muscat's Omani bowman, Hashim Al Rashdi. "We made some unsuccessful decisions which affected our position and widened the gap between ourselves and Red Bull Sailing Team. Tomorrow we are looking to avoid making any mistakes and improve our tactics in order to win the last races."
Added to their difficulties Ernesto Bertarelli and his Swiss crew aboard Alinghi are challenging The Wave, Muscat's second position. Thankfully the Omani team ended the day on a high: after a slow to start in the final race, they pulled through the fleet finishing just ahead of their Swiss rivals, to maintain a three point lead going into tomorrow's final races.
For the three Omani crew – bowman Hashim Al Rashdi and 5th man Musab Al Hadi on The Wave, Muscat and Nasser Al Mashari aboard Team Duqm Oman – competing in front of their homecrowd, demonstrating their skill as elite yachtsmen to their family, friends and fans, is understandably a very special moment, the highlight of their season before the Extreme Sailing Series moves on to the Far East, back to Europe and ending up in Brazil.
"I'm very happy to sail in front of in a crowd of thousands of Omanis who attended the event today," said Al Mashri. "Their presence encourages us to exert ourselves all the more. We are looking to see them all come back to support us tomorrow to help us make it to the podium."
Al Mashri won this regatta last year competing with Morgan Larson on Oman Air. His ex-skipper is now on Alinghi, and Team Duqm Oman is gunning for tomorrow, in third place, 30 points ahead of them.
Team Duqm Oman managed to keep it together today to maintain fourth place despite the tough conditions. "It was very very light today," confirmed skipper Rob Greenhalgh. "I guess it is about practice in those conditions, but it is the same for everyone - any little mistakes make a big difference. It was enjoyable, tense racing. We hung in there and had our ups and downs as did everyone."
Nasser Al Mashari added: "We were lucky at some points today to gain us valuable points. On the other hand, the wind we came across on some areas of the race course was almost dead and this gave other boats the opportunity to move ahead of us."
Considering that the three teams ahead of them come with considerably more experience in the Extreme Sailing Series, Greenhalgh is satisfied with their progress. "They've been doing this for years. We have been doing this for one event. I think we can learn a lot and take a lot forward to another event if we get to do one."
Greenhalgh confirms that on board Team Duqm Oman, the new crew is gelling. Reflecting on bowman Al Mashari's performance, the three time Volvo Ocean Race sailor and multiple world champion commented: "Nasser is awesome. He's head down, does his job very very well."
The Omani teams are keeping their fingers crossed that tomorrow Mother Nature will deliver more breeze, but more important is that as many fans as possible line the beach at The Wave, Muscat tomorrow to encourage them on.