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Oman Air match races to flying catamaran victory at Copa del Rey MAPFRE

by GC32 Racing Tour 3 Aug 2019 13:06 PDT 31 July - 4 August 2019

Oman Air have won the 38 Copa del Rey MAPFRE, third event of the 2019 GC32 Racing Tour, after fending off a final day challenge from arch-rivals Alinghi. After being soundly beaten by Ernesto Bertarelli's Swiss team at the GC32 World Championship in June, this was a sweet return to form for Adam Minoprio and his crew.

"Winning here was important to get back the confidence of the team," said the New Zealand skipper, whose team is now on level points with Alinghi at the top of the 2019 GC32 Racing Tour leaderboard "It's going to be a very challenging series. We were very disappointed we didn't have to make them work harder for the world title, so it's good to get one over them here."

While Alinghi was disappointed to have lost out on this occasion, skipper Arnaud Psarofaghis was still pleased with the team's performance. "In the end the battle for this regatta was a two-boat race, and we managed to come back at Oman Air in the middle of the day with two race wins, but then they were very strong in the last two races. It's fun racing against them and it's going to be a battle all the way to the end of the season."

Red Bull Sailing Team were the other crew to make it on to the Palma podium, which was 'goal achieved' for skipper Roman Hagara. "The podium is what we wanted, and we've definitely made a step-up from the start of the season," said the double Olympic Champion from Austria. "I'm proud of the consistent performance put in by the team here." Long-time crewman on board Red Bull, Hans-Peter Steinacher still sees room for improvement before the end of the year. "With a new crew it is not always easy to fight against teams who have been sailing together for years. But it's clear that we are on our way up."

Zoulou finished fourth, the only boat here to be helmed by an owner-driver, Erik Maris. "I'll have good memories of this regatta," he said." Perfect conditions, wonderful sailing, I don't see how it could be any better in terms of the environment, the setting, the conditions, the race management. The race committee, as always, were excellent, and getting fourth in this fleet is very good. It was good that we were getting better during the regatta."

While all types of grand prix sailing reward time in the boat, the need for experience is amplified in a foiling catamaran. This was only Australian match racer Keith Swinton's second time at the helm of a GC32, the last time being three years ago - an aeon in GC32 terms. "The standard is a lot higher than when I last sailed the boat in 2016, but it's good to be reminded how much fun these boats are," said Swinton, who took the helm of Christian Zuerrer's Black Star Sailing Team for the first time at Copa del Rey MAPFRE. "Where we're lacking is in knowing all the little details, getting the rudder trim just right for example. You can make big gains when you get it right, but you go backwards really fast when you get it wrong."

Iker Martinez and his new crew on M&G Tressis Silicius took everyone by surprise in the first race of the afternoon when they snuck through on the final windward leg to lead the reaching parade across the finish line. It was high-fives all round as the Spanish underdogs overtook the big teams for a famous race victory. After such a trying and testing week, this was just what the double Olympic medallist needed - for himself, his crew and his sponsors. "We are faster at the start of the day when we have energy," said Martinez. "We had shifty winds and it was tricky conditions which was maybe an advantage for us because we sail in Palma quite a lot. Alinghi and Oman Air were fighting each other and we were lucky to get past them while that was going on.

"That race win was a big thank you to our sponsors after struggling a lot this week. We lost our boat captain to injury before the regatta, then we broke our bowsprit but thanks to Red Bull we got back on track again. Then we broke our shroud and missed all of day two, but Oman Air helped us out with a replacement. So it's been a difficult week but we've really enjoyed it and to finish like we did with a race win was perfect."

This evening the prizegiving for the 38 Copa del Rey MAPFRE takes place at Ses Voltes by the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, with the prizes awarded by the King of Spain, Felipe VI.

For the GC32 Racing Tour, the season moves on to Lake Garda for the Riva Cup over 11-15th September.

Best shots from the GC32s - 38th Copa Del Rey MAPFRE

Full results of the GC32 Racing Tour competition at Copa del Rey MAPFRE can be found here.

Team Oman Air take overall lead of GC32 Racing Tour after winning Copa del Rey MAPFRE (from Oman Sail)

There were smiles and cheers all round as the crew received their trophy at a spectacular prize-giving for the Copa Del Rey MAPFRE regatta in the Mallorcan capital presided over by King Felipe VI of Spain.

The crew produced a memorable display of highly competitive sailing as they won half of the regatta's 20 races over four intense days on the Bay of Palma, and finished in the top three in every single one.

After sharing the lead at the end of the opening day Team Oman Air then moved ahead of the chasing pack with a hat-trick of race wins on the second day.

In what had developed into a head-to-head tussle with their Swiss adversaries on Alinghi, skipper Adam Minoprio and Nasser Al Mashari, Stewart Dodson, Pete Greenhalgh and Adam Piggott held a three point lead going into the final day and then sealed the deal with victories in the two last races to take the win by a clear five points.

Along with their victory in the opening round of the GC32 Racing Tour in Sardinia, the Team Oman Air crew are now firmly on course to realise their ambition of winning the 2019 Tour title in what is Oman Sail's 10th anniversary year.

"It was a great day on the water today for Team Oman Air," said Minoprio. "We managed to get three seconds and two firsts with some very close racing with Alinghi. We put some points on them and were able to extend our lead to win the regatta, a fantastic day.

"It's been a great week of racing with some very, very close racing with Alinghi, but the team's done a great job and we have been very consistent and managed to be on the podium in every race and win half the races, so a very, very good week."

And he added: "Over half the way through the season and we have got ourselves into a good spot with Alinghi for the overall championship with two events left - there's going to be some great racing to come."

Overall Team Oman Air - which is also supported by EFG Private Bank Monaco - now lead the Tour by virtue of their Palma victory, though level on points with Alinghi.

Long-standing team member Al Mashari says the hard work is paying off: "We have worked very hard at getting good communication and good boat handling on the water, and on teamwork as well, that was our goal and it worked and we won.

"It has been great in Palma with very good conditions, and we won the event so we are happy. We are looking forward to the next event in Lake Garda and we will try and do even better."

Greenhalgh, Oman Air's tactician and mainsail trimmer, agrees: "We are super happy and proud. It's a great feeling to be on top of the leaderboard with Alinghi behind us.

"The team have worked so hard, everybody, the people behind the scenes, to get us to where we are now, so it's a big 'thank you' to all of them, and let's keep it going and push hard to the end."

The crew can now look forward to the penultimate round of the GC32 Racing Tour on Lake Garda, Italy, in September.

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