In Act 3 of the Extreme Sailing Series, six different winners from eight races told a story of tricky conditions in Qingdao today but Oman Sail’s The Wave, Muscat and Oman Air both edged closer to achieving their ultimate goals ahead of the final day’s racing.
Oman Air finally gave a glimpse of their true potential by taking an outright win followed by a second place which marked a significant turnaround in fortunes after their upsetting start to Act 3 on Thursday when they were T-boned 30 seconds into the first race.
Onboard Oman Air - 2014 Extreme Sailing Series, Act 3 - © Lloyd Images/Extreme Sailing Series
As compensation, the jury decided to award them average points on today’s (Saturday) results which has now elevated them five places up the leaderboard into seventh with a day still to go. Skipper Rob Greenhalgh was delighted at Oman Air’s improved performance which earned them their second outright win of the series.
'This was our first proper day’s racing at this event so we are pretty happy with that,' he said.
'We are a new team so it is all about learning about each other’s strengths and weaknesses and getting our communications going but we are improving all the time and I am sure we will get better event by event.
'Once you are out in front and get away from the pack, it is easier. Starting is key and we made good inroads on our starting manoeuvres today so we have to keep working on that.
'Every team here can win races and everyone can come last so we have to aim at consistency and getting the points where we can.'
The southerly 10-15 knot conditions were relatively tricky and a lumpy swell tested the sailors as the day wore on. Hashim Al Rashdi onboard Oman Air who, between Extreme events, goes back to learning the 49er with his crewmate Musab Al Hadi was happy to put some points on the board: 'It was good to win today and to get a second it was a very good day. We found our stride a bit more, and the communications and teamwork gelled some more as well.'
ESS defending champions The Wave, Muscat, who were also winners of the Qingdao Act in 2013, started the day in terrific form to post two consecutive victories, which closed the gap between them and leaders Alinghi to single digits on the leaderboard temporarily.
By the end of the day, although they had dropped one place overall to third the gap between them and Alinghi was down from 14 points overnight to 12 points which puts them in sight of an overall victory, although they will need to fend off the inevitable challenges from Swiss teams Alinghi and Realteam and Emirates Team New Zealand who will also be in contention when the final day’s racing gets underway tomorrow.
Oman Air - 2014 Extreme Sailing Series, Act 3 - © Lloyd Images/Extreme Sailing Series
'We were going well but the last two races didn’t quite go to plan,' explained skipper Leigh McMillan.
'We have done a really good job in getting closer to Alinghi in the overalls so hopefully tomorrow conditions will be good enough to get in lots of races and if that is the case, it is still a very level playing field. We will be gunning for the overall victory tomorrow.
'It was hard work today and our efforts were rewarded by those two race wins but conditions were quite tricky. The expected breeze didn’t materialise – we could see it offshore but it didn’t make it onto the race course which made it gusty and shifty and difficult to sail the boats but it was the same for everyone and we just did our best.'
The forecast for tomorrow is for another breezy day and race officers will focus on safety for sailors in the 12 boat fleet as they look to run eight races in the compact stadium racing arena at Fushan Bay. Extreme Sailing Series