by Oman Sail
Extreme Sailing Series 2014 - In a thrilling climax to the St Petersburg Act, Extreme Sailing Series defending champions The Wave, Muscat fought valiantly for the inaugural Russia title to post a second place overall while Oman Air also proved plucky opponents on a tricky final day marked by light and shifty winds.
The Extreme Sailing Series 2014. Act4. St Petersburg.Russia.
Going into the final double-points race, Leigh McMillan and his crew were still vying with Alinghi for the overall win, knowing they had to be seven boats ahead of the Swiss boat at the finish to take their second series victory.
They also had Emirates Team New Zealand snapping at their heels, just two points behind on the leaderboard, so had to make sure they were not leapfrogged which forced skipper Leigh McMillan into some dramatic risk-taking on the race course.
It was not enough to beat Alinghi who won by 12 points, but the champion team did manage to hold off Team New Zealand and skipper McMillan paid tribute to his exceptional crew of Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler and Nasser Al Mashari.
'It was very difficult out there today with big holes in the wind and big gusts which placed a lot of emphasis on the starts,' said McMillan.
'But the team have been exceptional, pushing all the way. Even when we are right up against it, the atmosphere on the boat is really good. I couldn’t ask more of them.
'Getting a second here in St Petersburg is a good result and as the year goes on, the venues will swing in our favour so staying in touch with Alinghi, who are very strong in these conditions, means we are staying in touch overall which is good.
'Looking ahead to Cardiff, it will be another tricky one but we know how the place works because we won there last year so we will be going all out to defend our title.'
For Rob Greenhalgh, skipper of Oman Air, the patchy winds and strong current on the River Neva proved challenging for the new team.
'It was a pretty disappointing day because it was all about the starts and we were struggling to get the starts right so that was that,' he said.
'But everything is moving in the right direction and we are getting close to getting good.
'We need to keep pushing hard and perhaps be a little more aggressive which we may try at the next event. We are looking forward to Cardiff and will really be aiming to finish in the top half.'
For the second consecutive month, an Oman Sail crewmember won the Land Rover Above and Beyond Award, given at each of the Extreme Sailing Series Acts for the finest example of team spirit, sportsmanship and strength of mind from an individual, team or group.
Sarah Ayton, two-time Olympic gold medal winner and crew on The Wave, Muscat was awarded the prize for her commitment at the four Extreme venues visited so far, to talking to schoolchildren about her sailing career and inspiring them at the Extreme Sailing Series ‘Chat with Champions’ sessions.
An emotional Sarah Ayton said: 'The goal is to try and be good at what I do and to inspire people, especially children, as they are what it is all about and if you can do that, then it is really special so I am thrilled to have won this award.'
Extreme Sailing Series Act 5 moves to Britain in two months time when it returns to the Welsh capital of Cardiff from August 22nd-25th.