Leigh McMillan and his crew on The Wave, Muscat held their nerve all the way down adrenalin alley in Cardiff Bay to pull off a remarkable victory in Act 5 of the Extreme Sailing Series in Cardiff while Oman Air put down a marker for the rest of the series.
At the start of the final race of the day, having come last in the first two races, they were at the top of the rankings, leading closest rivals Alinghi and J.P Morgan BAR. To take the win, they needed to execute some bold moves resulting in all three ending up in a ‘tangle’, which as McMillan explained, worked in favour of the Wave, Muscat.
'It has been a roller coaster ride here in Cardiff – pretty emotional,' admitted McMillan.
'We battled all through the day and we tried to race well as a team and after a couple of bad races at the start, we regrouped and we did it. It came down to the wire as always in the last race. We don’t do things the easy way so it was pretty touch and go.'
The Wave, Muscat. Skippered by Leigh McMillan (GBR) with tactician Sarah Ayton (GBR), trimmer Peter Greenhalgh (GBR), headsail trimer Kinley Fowler (NZL) and bowman Nasser Al Mashari (OMA) Celebrating their win in Cardiff during Act 5 of the Extreme Sailing Series. - © Lloyd Images/Extreme Sailing Series
'There were three of us fighting for the wind all right next to each other and none of us were laying the windward mark but it ended up playing into our hands. It was light and we were trying to push Alinghi the wrong side of the mark so we all got into a tangle which worked in our favour.
The victory, their second in the series after a win in Muscat earlier this year, reduces Alinghi’s overall lead in the series to just two points with three Acts in 2014 remaining including the next Act in Istanbul.
'We’ve been solid all year and are winning events but in Istanbul, we can take it back to Alinghi and it will continue to be a big showdown as the year progresses.'
Award Ceremony with The Wave, Muscat - © Lloyd Images/Extreme Sailing Series
The Wave, Muscat crew of Sarah Ayton, Nasser Al Mashari, Pete Greenhalgh and Kinley Fowler attracted a large and loyal following among the local crowds in Cardiff and they were thrilled at the support.
'To win an Extreme 40 event especially in Cardiff is a big deal so we are very happy,' said Al Mashari.
Oman Air skipper Rob Greenhalgh (GBR) - © Lloyd Images/Extreme Sailing Series
It was good to hear the spectators cheering for us as we came through the finish line. It made it more powerful and exciting.'
It was another promising contest for Rob Greenhalgh and Oman Air, who finished in sixth place just seven points behind Realteam to sit in ninth place on the overall leaderboard.
The addition of new crewmember Ted Hackney had been a success, Greenhalgh said, and he had worked well alongside Kyle Langford, Hashim Al Rashdi and Musab Al Hadi with a marked improvement in their performances including nine podium places from 33 races.
'I am pleased with sixth – we would have liked to have finished in the top half but it was all very close. We have made general improvements and are pleased with our performances – Ted has been a great addition to the crew and everyone is happy.
'It’s been a hard event but Musab and Hashim do a great job at the front of the boat making sure we get round the course quickly.
'Now we are looking forward to Istanbul. We all feel we can compete for podium positions so will be looking to finish in the top five or six overall.'
2014 Extreme Sailing Series, Act 5 Cardiff - Oman Air - © Lloyd Images/Extreme Sailing Series
The success was not confined to the water. For the third time in the series, Oman Sail was awarded Land Rover’s Above and Beyond Award, awarded to the team or individual who demonstrates the finest examples of skill, sportsmanship and strength of mind.
This time, the Omani team shared it jointly with JPMorgan for helping Emirates Team New Zealand with their broken rudder on the first day of racing on Friday.
The next Extreme Sailing Series event takes place in Istanbul in Turkey from September 11-14.
The Extreme Sailing - Act 5, Cardiff - Award Ceremony - © Lloyd Images/Extreme Sailing Series