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Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 3, Cardiff - Day 3

by Extreme Sailing Series 25 Jun 2016 22:36 BST 23-26 June 2016

Oman Air masterclass in Cardiff

Extreme Sailing Series™ maestro Morgan Larson will take his Oman Air team into the finale of Act 3, Cardiff in pole position following a masterclass of big breeze sailing.

Larson's expert crew have impressed throughout the thrilling regatta, rarely finishing off the podium as the seven international crews do battle in typically blustery conditions in the Welsh capital Cardiff. But as racing entered its penultimate day today Oman Air, the current Extreme Sailing Series overall 2016 leaders, changed to a new gear that saw them score four race wins and a second from eight races.

They are now firmly top of the Act 3 leaderboard with a comfortable 17-point buffer over closest challengers SAP Extreme Sailing Team going into tomorrow's climax. It wasn't all plain sailing for the Omani-backed team however – trimmer Ed Smyth nearly got washed overboard when their GC32 catamaran was hit by a strong gust.

And just when it looked like they would score their fourth race win of the day, Taylor Canfield's CHINA One team blasted past and pipped them on the finish line. Larson said his crew – who welcomed Welsh rugby star Alex Cuthbert onboard for a lap of Cardiff Bay prior to racing – will keep pushing for their second Act win of the 2016 season.

"It was a wild day again but our team dug in deep," Larson said. "I was a bit shaky with my starts early on but their great boat handling and athleticism just pulled us back through. The secret was not getting into any trouble and doing all of the small things right. It was easy to get into trouble – we got really close to hitting the Chinese boat but we just missed them.

"In the last race we had a great run in with CHINA One – they were coming in fast on our heels and I think we had backed off a little conservatively. Their speed was incredible and they pressed us into the finish. Now it's a case of keeping our foot on the throttle and hopefully the results will take care of themselves."

Canfield's rookie team finish the day in fourth place but in an indication of just how close racing is just five points now separate second-placed SAP Extreme Sailing Team and fifth placed Alinghi. The US Virgin Islander said he has his sights firmly set on his first podium finish of the year as the battle reaches its peak.

They will begin the final day of racing just one point adrift of Austrian crew Red Bull Sailing Team and two behind SAP Extreme Sailing Team.

"We had some ups and downs but to finish on a win is great," Canfield said. "We worked hard all day and overall we're really happy. The last race was definitely a close finish – Oman Air have been the pace setters in the Series so to take it right at the finish was great. As far as we are concerned the podium has always been in sight."

Swiss crew Alinghi, winners of Act 2 in Qingdao, had a mixed bag of results including one race win but also a last-place finish. Their challenging day was summed up in the final race when one of their boat's two rudders fell off halfway round the course, leaving them to limp home just three seconds inside the time limit.

Sail Portugal, under the leadership of former Olympian Diogo Cayolla, showed that despite their current position of sixth in the standings they can still challenge for the lead, with two podium finishes. There was also a welcome return to action for Land Rover BAR Academy after structural damage forced them out of five of yesterday's six races.

The climax of Act 3 kicks off at 1400 tomorrow. Fans can follow the action live on YouTube and BT Sport Europe from 1530 to 1700 BST.

Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 3, Cardiff Standings after Day 3: (22 races)

1st Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson, Pete Greenhalgh, James Wierzbowski, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari 227pts
2nd SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Mads Emil Stephensen, Pierluigi De Felice, Renato Conde 210pts
3rd Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Stewart Dodson, Adam Piggott, Brad Farrand 209pts
4th CHINA One (CHN) Taylor Canfield, Shane Diviney, Hayden Goodrick, Garth Ellingham, Luke Payne 208pts
5th Alinghi (SUI) Arnaud Psarofaghis, Nicolas Charbonnier, Timothé Lapauw, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 205pts
6th Sail Portugal (POR) Diogo Cayolla, Javier de la Plaza, Luís Brito, João Matos Rosa, Sam Bell 176pts
7th Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) Paul Campbell-James ('CJ'), Neil Hunter, Will Alloway, Rob Bunce, Adam Kay 107pts

Heart rates soar as Oman Air raise the bar on 'wild day' in Cardiff (from Oman Sail)

Oman Air raised the bar in Cardiff when they unleashed another level of performance to earn four outright wins, including three in three races, to reinforce their position at the top of the Extreme Sailing Series.

Morgan Larson's crew enjoyed an impressive and unbeatable run of form late afternoon to boost their total points for the day by 73, giving them a 17-point cushion over second placed SAP Extreme Sailing Team with one day of racing remaining.

Teamwork, boat-handling and starts were good and the podium points started to mount up with a victory in the opening race of the day then three stunning wins in consecutive races and a close second to ChinaOne at the end.

"It was a wild day and although it took a while to get the starts right, the team dug in deep - their boat handling and athleticism pulled us through," said skipper Morgan Larson.

"It was important but not easy to stay out of trouble in those big gusts and the heart rate was right up there! If we are going to win tomorrow, we need to keep it clean and avoid any penalties. If we can keep our foot on the throttle and do what we've been doing, hopefully the result should take care of itself."

One of the secrets to their success, revealed Pete Greenhalgh, was an ability to stay calm when things don't go their way.

"It can be upsetting when you lose places or earn a penalty but you just have to reset and the quicker you reset the better you do. If you let something like that trip you up it will just ricochet into the rest of the races and your results but resetting is what we do particularly well."

"Today we had some good starts and found our way down the runs nicely. We picked the wind and marks and kept it as clean and tidy as we could. Everyone stuck to their jobs when it got a bit crazy which is one of our strong points."

As well as the regular crew of Larson, Greenhalgh, Nasser Al Mashari, Ed Smyth and James Wierzbowski, Oman Air entertained Cardiff Blues rugby player Alex Cuthbert as their guest for a whizz around the bay.

"Alex is a big strapping bloke and was game to get involved so we had him hiking out a little bit and Pete put him on the handles to grind," explained Larson.

"By the end, he was a bit tired but we earned the respect of one rugby player today and demonstrated that sailing is a physical sport!"

Conditions for the final day of racing in Cardiff are expected to be equally demanding but Nasser Al Mashari, one of the fittest and strongest athletes in the entire Extreme Sailing Series fleet, was confident of firing on all cylinders to the end.

"This was probably one of our best days on the GC32 this season, it was tough, but it all came together and we are very happy with how things are evolving so hopefully we can repeat them on the final day," he said.

Oman Air, who also lead the 2016 overall leaderboard by two points, continue racing on Sunday June 26 with the final race earning double points. Fans can watch the racing live on the official YouTube channel at 1530-1700 BST daily. In the UK, they can also watch it live on BT Sport.

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