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Extreme Sailing Series - Omani crews keep cool heads on day 2

by Extreme Sailing Series on 21 Mar 2014
The Extreme Sailing Series 2014. Act 2. Oman Air skippered by Rob Greenhalgh (GBR) and The Wave, Muscat skippered by Leigh McMillan (GBR) Lloyd Images/Extreme Sailing Series
In the Extreme Sailing Series, The Wave, Muscat continued to make ground on the rest of the fleet in Muscat with another strong performance on the second day of racing while Oman Air’s young crew added 'light air racing' to their growing Extreme 40 knowledge base.

Six races were held in the waters off the Almouj Golf Club and despite a breeze that dipped and built then dipped again, the racing community was kept entertained by some enthusiastic cheek by jowl competition which once again proved challenging for all 11 crews.

The crew on The Wave, Muscat skippered by Leigh McMillan once again showed cool heads in the sweltering heat, recording three podium places from six races including a win in the first race of the day.

Their points haul could have been greater had they not dropped from second to last place in the penultimate race of the day. According to McMillan, a wind shift left them ‘in a tangle’ stuck in the middle of the fleet with no wind and nowhere to go.

'It was a really good performance by the team apart from one major setback in Race 12 which cost us six or seven points and the top spot on the leaderboard,' he explained.

'We were in second place and the wind shifted which left us in a bit of tangle. We got stuck with no wind. Everyone sailed around us and we ended up hitting the mark too so we did our penalty and sailed on in last place. It was a silly mistake but we shall be back to normal tomorrow.'

As two time Extreme Sailing Series champion, McMillan is regarded as a formidable opponent in the Extreme 40 fleet with an almost matchless knowledge of what it takes to win, whatever the conditions.

To win in Muscat, he said simply, you need to stay ‘cool’.

'You have to stay as cool as you can in these conditions and look for opportunities without getting too caught up with the other boats. Sail in clean air and get the boat rolling. Quite often we are successful at that but not always.'
This steady consistency hoisted McMillan and his crew of Sarah Ayton, Kinley Fowler, Pete Greenhalgh and Nasser Al Mashari, from fourth place to second – just three points behind leaders Alinghi with two days, and around 15 races, remaining.

Putting in such a strong performance in front of family and friends left Al Mashari, who has become one of Oman’s best-known sportsmen, eager for more success.

'We’ve had a very good day,' he said. 'My family has been watching from the beach – my brother has called me three times while I’ve been racing and he is really enjoying it. Oman means everything to me and racing on The Wave, Muscat is a real challenge but it means we get to raise the Omani flag all over the world which makes me very proud.'

The light and patchy wind meant mistakes on the start line were rife across the fleet with 12 teams penalized for being over the line when the flag went up. These included Rob Greenhalgh’s Oman Air, whose two errors cost them dear, dropping them one place in the ranking.

Learning from these errors placed them in a stronger position for the future, said crewman Will Howden.

'It was a tough day for us. We set out with high expectations but we made two errors at the start that hampered our progress but we had some good races too.

'We are a young team and going forward things are looking good but we need to be more consistent. We feel we are improving more than the other teams because our learning curve is so steep that any improvement makes a difference.'

Both teams drew extra inspiration from the amazing new trans-ocean records set by Britain’s quadriplegic sailor Hilary Lister and Oman Sail’s Nashwa Al Kindi who sailed into Muscat on Wednesday night having completed the 850nm passage across the Indian Ocean from Mumbai in just nine Extreme Sailing Series

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