MUSCAT- Oman Air’s hard work paid off when they achieved their best result of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series so far while reigning champions The Wave, Muscat left themselves with too much to do in the final races to defend their Qingdao trophy finishing just one point off the podium.
Big gusts of 25 knots once again played havoc with the racing schedule as the fleet was split into groups to maintain on water safety but both Oman Sail crews rode out the disruption to post four podium places in total, with Leigh McMillan’s team on The Wave, Muscat closing the Act with a resounding win in the final race.
For the crew on Oman Air, which for the first time counted America’s Cup winner Kyle Langford among its number, the rise through the ranks to mid table was welcomed especially after their calamitous start when GAC Pindar collided with the boat in the first 30 seconds of racing and forced them off the race track for an entire day.
“It’s our best result so far this year so we are very pleased with that,” said skipper Rob Greenhalgh.
“We knew we would be slow starters this year because we are a brand new team but our aim was the top half of the table and we have achieved that here so hopefully we can stay in the hunt for the rest of the year. The team is gelling nicely, we kept the tempo pretty high and all sailed well.”
The improvement in performance and results was clear to see and the difference had given all team members on Oman Air a big boost, said Musab Al Hadi. “The whole team is happy because we saw an improvement every day and we now have a lot of information to take away with us and learn from so we can get ready for the next Act in Russia.”
“It was pretty tough out there today and of course every team wanted to win. The podium only has three places but we are happy with sixth place because if we work hard we know we can do even better.”
The Wave, Muscat’s knack of pulling off an overall victory in the final throes of the competition for once eluded them and despite a resounding win in the last race, they finished in fourth place, just one point off the podium. This puts them in second place overall in the championship standings behind Qingdao Act winners and long-time rivals Alinghi who were T-boned by Red Bull Racing this afternoon and awarded average points from the day for the final two races.
“Normally we are strong at the end of an event and strong going into the last race, but it wasn’t enough today,” said Leigh McMillan.
“We had the possibility of getting into third so we fought hard for it. At one point, it looked possible but in the end it just didn’t go our way though it was great to finish the event with a win.
“Things didn’t go completely to plan this week. Conditions were very shifty and we got caught out a number of times. It took us a while to get into sync with the conditions and it cost us because some teams were able to do that from the word go. From there it was difficult to make points back with a split fleet and that was frustrating.
“But we were only one point off the podium so we didn’t do too much damage. We are in good shape overall so need to keep pushing forward.”
Looking ahead to Act 4 in St Petersburg in Russia from June 26-29, both Oman Sail skippers said they were expecting light winds and a repeat of the split fleet format that will once again be a real test.
“Russia will be another tricky venue and I think we will have to come out with more aggression. We have not been pushing hugely hard but we will have to raise the bar for the next event to get back into winning ways,” said McMillan.
Some challenging times for the Oman Sail teams were made all the more worthwhile when their hard working shore team comprising Jo Lees, Hilal Al Zadjali and Suleiman Al Manji became the first recipients of the Land Rover “Above and Beyond” Award.
The Award, presented at each Act for the finest example of skill, sportsmanship and strength of mind from an individual, team or group was given to the team for their incredible efforts in repairing Oman Air overnight after day 1.
“The ‘backroom boys’ never get much recognition but the guys worked so hard,” said shore manager Lees who has been mentoring his Omani colleagues in the art of boat building for several years.
“It means the world to be recognised and for the boys to be recognised. They are always smiling, always keen to learn and always working hard. To be recognised today in the biggest way with the Land Rover “Above & Beyond” Award is a real honour.”
As winners of the Award, Oman Sail now qualify for the Land Rover Above and Beyond Trophy, awarded at the end of the season for the year’s finest achievement.