Conditions at Act 2 of the Extreme Sailing Series in Muscat proved tough today for the two Omani teams racing in front of home crowds at the Almouj Extreme Sailing race venue, but both the defending champion The Wave, Muscat and the young, ambitious team on Oman Air headed by Rob Greenhalgh were upbeat about lessons learnt and how to move up the leader board going into the final day of Act 2.
The Wave, Muscat with Tornado Olympic sailor Leigh McMillan skippering struggled a bit today in the light and patchy airs but were able to retain their momentum and score a series of respectable results including a fourth and a third during today’s eight races.
The team, which includes Pete Greenhalgh (GBR), Sarah Ayton (GBR), Kinley Fowler (NZL) and Nasser Al Mashari (OMA), are now 14pts behind Alinghi – the series leaders – but the scoreboard at the top of the fleet is still wide open.
'It was tough out there,' said McMillan, 'I made my fair share of mistakes getting us off the start line so we were up against it all day. There were no lucky breaks for us so it was pretty frustrating but looking on the bright side, we will put today behind us and look to getting back on form and back to the top of the leaderboard tomorrow.'
After a mixed set of results, including an excellent second place, Rob Greenhalgh and crew on Oman Air have a bit of catching up to do. Viewing the situation positively, Greenhalgh says although today’s results were not ideal, the experience of such fantastic, close racing has really tested the crew in general and is an invaluable learning experience.
Oman Air, 2014 Extreme Sailing Series Act 2 - © Lloyd Images/Extreme Sailing Series
Greenhalgh commented: 'We knew at the beginning of this year that it was going to be hard to finish in the top half of the fleet because there are some of the best sailors in the world out there who don’t give an inch. At this event we’d be happy with sixth but later in the year, maybe, a podium finish is an option.
'Everyone wants to win but it is important to be realistic. We only started sailing together at the previous event in Singapore, and we are not a hugely experienced team, so we are learning every day and taking what we have learnt forward.
'It was a very tricky day in Muscat and I think everyone experienced a game of snakes and ladders on the short courses. We started the day pretty well but sometimes found ourselves on the wrong side of a shift or missing out some puffs. It wasn’t a disaster but it could have been better.
'We had some good results and we are looking forward to tomorrow. We know what we need to work on, we have the coach working with us so we’ll come out fighting tomorrow.'
Racing among the 11 teams was intense right from the start, which meant the crowds of spectators at Almouj Golf Club were able to enjoy all the excitement of stadium style racing with crews demonstrating that tactics, faultless boat handling, and good team communication skills on these powerfully-rigged, 40ft carbon fibre flyers, are key to producing a consistent performance.
Musab Al Hadi, onboard Oman Air said knowing there is good support ashore gives the team a real boost: 'As Omanis we love to see the home crowd cheering us on. That is very special and it makes all the difference.'
Chatting about the racing, he said: 'We are a new team and still improving. The good thing is we are getting better and better as a team every day.'
Although Morgan Larson and the team on Alinghi and Sir Ben Ainslie and his team on J. P. Morgan BAR clearly had the edge today, with three wins apiece, there was some really exciting, close racing throughout and some new faces at the front of the fleet including Gazprom Team Russia who won Race 16, and the Danish SAP Extreme Sailing Team whose consistency at the top of the fleet has pushed them from fourth to second overall.
Sir Ben Ainslie meets with Oman Sail’s Optimist Champions - 2014 Extreme Sailing Series Act 2 - © Lloyd Images/Extreme Sailing Series
As well as concentrating on his sailing today, Sir Ben Ainslie generously attended an Oman Sail Youth Programme sailing session this morning before heading out to the racecourse during which the young Omani Optimist sailors were able to ask him questions and advice on how they can one day follow in his footsteps. He even found time go for a spin with them on an Optimist!
The young sailors were then invited to the Almouj Golf Club Extreme Sailing village for an inspirational session with Oman’s top sailing role models, including Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi, and Nasser Al Mashari. Oman Sail