It may not have been high speed racing on the final day of the Extreme Sailing Series opening Act in Muscat, Oman, but it was as tense as it gets, and in classic Extreme Sailing Series style, it came down to the final race for the winner to be decided.
Defending champion Leigh McMillan and his team on The Wave, Muscat sailed a picture perfect day coming back from a 15 point deficit to Red Bull Sailing Team to claim overall victory, in the closest possible finish on their home turf.
Just two points separated Red Bull Sailing Team and The Wave, Muscat going into the final double-pointer and the maths was simple – whoever performed better in that race, would win the Act. The invitational home team, Team Duqm Oman -with the winner of the inaugural Series back in 2007 Robert Greenhalgh at the helm- won the race, but The Wave Muscat did enough to secure victory after a tense battle. An elated, and slightly shell-shocked McMillan commented: 'We have had a mixed bag this week but an exceptional day today, that’s just the way the sport is. You can’t always get it right, but today we did it when it absolutely mattered. I’m not sure if we will be able to go and pull something off like that again, at every event! It was a tall ask for the team today but I’m just delighted that we just managed to have such a good day.'
Red Bull Sailing Team have been one of the form teams in Muscat this week, handling the big breeze open water racing on day one with equal skill as the light wind stadium racing. But it was not to be for the double Olympic gold medal-winning skipper Roman Hagara as his pre-race concerns about falling at the final hurdle came to fruition and tonight they will surely be thinking about what could have been. 'In that last race we were good off of the start line, matching them (The Wave, Muscat), but in the end we were not fast enough and could not hold them off. There was no way to catch up and the courses are so short. I just hope we can do better in Singapore,' said Hagara.
The Swiss America’s Cup winners Alinghi have been rock solid since the beginning of the Act, with the new pairing of skipper Ernesto Bertarelli and tactician Morgan Larson, who steered Oman Air to second place last season, leading the team to their first podium position since 2011. The SAP analytical data tells us they were the fastest boat on the course this week, at an average of 8.54 knots, and if they can get their distance sailed down, they could be on a course to victory.
Trimmer Pierre-Yves Jorand said: 'It was a great race, we have a great team and the addition of Morgan Larson is just huge for us and we are very, very happy with our third place. Obviously Ernesto, Yves and Nils are used to sailing together, we understand each other very well in these light conditions. Morgan made some great calls on the tactics as well as looking at the pulse and looking at the pressure. We didn’t start off too well today but we did it very nicely in the end, we are really happy!'
For the new skippers on Realteam, GAC Pindar and Team Korea who joined the party in Oman, each has showed moments of brilliance, a sign of things to come this year and a testament to how strong the fleet is. Since winning a silver medal for New Zealand at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Peter Burling has been riding on a whirlwind - first skippering Team Korea in the America's Cup World Series before making his Extreme 40 debut this week in Muscat and impressively steering his team to fifth place.
Although this is only Act 1 of eight international events this year, James Boyd, Editor of thedailysail.com’s form guide certainly reads true for the Act here in Muscat, with Leigh McMillan sending out a message to the other teams that he is the Series favourite. But with all the teams taking part this season having the potential to challenge The Wave, Muscat, there is a feeling that 2013 is going to be one of the closest yet.
Next stop, Singapore, where the fleet will race within the world famous Marina Bay Reservoir, from the 11th-14th April with a new invitational team, Team Aberdeen Singapore. Whilst conditions this year in Singapore are expected to be very light, there is no doubt that the high tension and close racing seen in Muscat will be repeated.
Extreme Sailing Series 2013 Act 1, Muscat, Oman standings after Day 4, 28 races (8.3.13)
Position / Team / Points
1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Musab Al Hadi, Hashim Al Rashdi 232 points. 2nd Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Pierre Le Clainche, Graeme Spence 226 points. 3rd Alinghi (SUI) Ernesto Bertarelli, Morgan Larson, Pierre Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 218 points. 4th Team Duqm Oman (OMA) Robert Greenhalgh, Bleddyn Mon, Will Howden, Andrew Walsh, Nasser Al Mashari 185 points. 5th Team Korea (KOR) Peter Burling, Blair Tuke, Mark Bulkeley, Sungwok Kim, Matt Cornwell 173 points. 6th GAC Pindar (NZL) Will Tiller, Brad Farrand, Stewart Dodson, Harry Thurston, Shaun Mason 164 points. 7th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Kostner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Nicolai Sehested 153 points. 8th Realteam (SUI) Jerome Clerc, Bryan Mettraux, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Cédric Schmidt, Thierry Wasem 147 points.