At the halfway stage of the 2013 Extreme Sailing Series Act 1 in Muscat, Oman, the pressure turned up a notch as the new faces began delivering podium places in the Extreme 40 stadium. It may be the familiar sails of Oman and Austria setting the pace with The Wave, Muscat and Red Bull Sailing Team sharing spoils at the top of the leaderboard but the three new skippers of Team Duqm Oman, Team Korea and GAC Pindar are pushing them relentlessly for the podium positions.
Returning champion Leigh McMillan was the headline Act for much of 2012, and the British Olympian is hoping a win here in Muscat will set the scene for the rest of the season. 'We’re a pretty solid team, and when we’ve got things going right and we’re working well together, we’re good at stringing a lot of good results together – so that’s the key. If we can do that we will be right there in the mix at the end, we’ve just got to try and sail cleanly – then we will be in good shape!'
Stadium racing began in perfect fashion with 20 knots of wind, but as the Arabian sun heated things up in Muscat, the wind slowly faded, and the sixth and final race of the day was played out in just four knots.
SAP Extreme Sailing Team and Team Duqm Oman were punished hard running out of time to finish the race, but despite the disappointment, Robert Greenhalgh, who returns to the Extreme 40 stage at the helm of the invitational team in Muscat, and his crew on Team Duqm Oman had done enough throughout the day to wrap things up in fourth.
Team Korea, with the London 2012 Olympic silver medal winning duo of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke from New Zealand, stepped up and made an impact from the first start gun today in the stadium, winning the first race of the day, and more impressively, their first race on the stadium style race course.
Dockside, some are saying this team has the potential to take the title in their first year, as they begin to find their place in the Extreme 40 fleet. 'It is pretty exciting to get out of the blocks. We had a pretty bad day yesterday so it was good to get a good position in the first race and it gave us some confidence for the rest of the day,' commented Burling.
'We are just trying to do as well as we can, we’ve only really done four days together as a crew but the lighter winds today gave us more time to communicate the manoeuvres and work together – so I think now we will be a lot more solid if we get another breezy day tomorrow.'
Tied on points with Burling is another young Kiwi making his Extreme 40 debut, William Tiller. The world number five ranked match racer and his team on GAC Pindar showed they can handle the intensity of the new domain, winning their first race of the regatta, an indication of how strong a team they could be. Tiller was buzzing after racing. 'The last couple of days here have been a steep learning curve for us and it’s been really enjoyable and the boy’s are loving it and had a lot of fun today with the stadium racing. Being tied in fifth is pretty good for the team after two days on the water and I think the points are pretty close from fourth right down to eighth so it will be tight racing for the next couple of days and we will be hoping to improve on that – I mean fourth will be a great finish up there in mid fleet for the first time and it will be awesome!'
The two-times winners of the America’s Cup Alinghi were on fire today with three race wins. A false start for the team in the fifth race was a slight hindrance in their stride and a laid-back Morgan Larson – a new addition to the Swiss team for 2013 as tactician – commented after racing: 'Winning the starts are everything and we just jumped the line and we finished last – but it wasn’t by much. Ernesto did a really nice job focusing on the starts and he got aggressive and it obviously worked so we’re pretty happy. The communication is solid and the team make it loose and light and fun. I guess when you’re doing well it seems to come easy.'
Tomorrow’s forecast is 18 knots of breeze for the penultimate day of stadium racing and thousands of public are expected to attend over the Omani weekend to watch the spectacle first hand from the shoreside Race Village at The Wave, Muscat. Online fans can watch the racing live from 1300 CET on the official event website as the stage is set for the final day.
Extreme Sailing Series 2013 Act 1, Muscat, Oman standings after day one, seven races (6.3.13)
Position / Team / Points
1st Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Pierre Le Clainche, Graeme Spence 105 points. 2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Musab Al Hadi, Hashim Al Rashdi 105 points. 3rd Alinghi (SUI) Ernesto Bertarelli, Morgan Larson, Pierre Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 96 points. 4th Team Duqm Oman (OMA) Robert Greenhalgh, Bleddyn Mon, Will Howden, Andrew Walsh, Nasser Al Mashari 79 points. 5th Team Korea (KOR) Peter Burling, Blair Tuke, Mark Bulkeley, Sungwok Kim, Matt Cornwell 73 points. 6th GAC Pindar (NZL) Will Tiller, Brad Farrand, Stewart Dodson, Harry Thurston, Shaun Mason 73 points. 7th Realteam (SUI) Jerome Clerc, Bryan Mettraux, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Cédric Schmidt, Thierry Wasem 69 points. 8th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Kostner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Nicolai Sehested 66 points.