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Team Oman Air look to preserve their lead at new venue in Madeira

by Oman Sail 21 Sep 2016 18:06 BST 22-25 September 2016
Oman Air team skippered by Morgan Larson with team mates Pete Greenhalgh, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari and James Wierzbowski © Lloyd Images

Team Oman Air is intent on upping the ante when racing gets underway at the Extreme Sailing Series' brand new venue in Madeira in a bid to safeguard and increase their five-point overall lead throughout the remaining three events in 2016.

Skipper Morgan Larson admitted that their second place in Act 5 in St Petersburg, finishing six points behind rivals Alinghi, had represented a timely wake-up call and the three events in Madeira, Lisbon and Australia would require greater application and determination if their overall lead was to be maintained or even extended.

"The season is half way done and although we have a five-point lead, we cannot start counting our chickens," he said.

"We need to be in with a shot of winning the championship when the last Act in Sydney starts and to do that we have to sail more determinedly and work harder to make sure our lead isn't eroded between now and then."

The Portuguese Atlantic islands of Madeira, an archipelago comprising four islands off the northwest coast of Africa, is expected to deliver winds of between 8-12 knots which will provide the ideal opportunity to go on the offensive, Larson said.

"After St Petersburg, the feeling was good because we sailed well but we didn't nail it when it really counted.

"So I think we need to be a bit more assertive in our balancing of risk and reward. Sometimes when you are out ahead, you can get a bit conservative and protect your lead but history tells you that you cannot afford to do that in this fleet.

"You always have to be offensive rather than defensive so Russia was a bit of a wake- up call and that is good."

Snapping at their heels as usual is Alinghi, the Swiss team that Larson skippered for the past two years before moving back to Oman Air. Their win in St Petersburg narrowed the gap at the top of the table to five points so there is now extra pressure on Larson and his crew to make sure his old team make no further gains.

"When you are racing against your old teammates you want to prove you can beat them," he said.

"I have a lot of respect for the Alinghi guys and know they are strong in a lot of areas so it makes for great racing but I want to beat them simply because they are one of the best teams and it is always satisfying beating the best teams.

"I enjoy the pressure. It's what drives me – and makes me feel good. The whole team responds well to pressure."

As previous winners of the Extreme Sailing Series, Oman Air's Pete Greenhalgh, Ed Smyth and Nasser Al Mashari are known to relish pressure situations while James Wierzbowski, the only member of the Oman Air crew who has never stood on the winner's podium at the end of the series is keen to collect his winners medal in 2016.

But Madeira will be a challenge for all of them, admitted Al Mashari, Oman's star bowman.

"No one has raced in Madeira before so we are quite excited and we are looking forward to it," he said.

"We know there is a potential for a 15 knot wind but it sounds like a good venue and it will make the racing more fun because no one knows what will happen next. We will be focussed and determined to step up to the top of the podium again."

Racing in Madeira will comprise a mix of open water racing and the Series' signature Stadium Racing starting on Thursday 22 September just off the shore of Marina Funchal.

The free to enter public Race Village is open daily from 22 – 25 September but fans from further afield can enjoy multi-media coverage and live streaming of the on-the-water action online on Saturday September 24 and Sunday September 25.

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