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Dramatic day sets Team Oman Air up for Extreme Sailing Series Act 1 title battle

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Dramatic day sets Team Oman Air up
Dramatic day sets Team Oman Air up

A long and dramatic day of Extreme Sailing Series racing saw Team Oman Air firmly in contention in what has become a three-way title fight for the Act 1 crown.

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With nine races packed into the penultimate day, guests and spectators along the Muscat shore and viewers live online, were treated to a masterclass of high-speed, high-intensity GC32 catamaran racing which saw no fewer than seven changes at the top of the leaderboard.

Team Oman Air was slow out of the blocks but the highly-experienced crew soon hit their stride with a string of podium finishes, including two wins. Going into the final race Phil Robertson’s men were narrowly ahead of the SAP Extreme Sailing Team, only to be knocked off pole position ahead of tomorrow’s finale thanks to a sixth-place finish, their worst of the day.

“We did have a bit of a slow start but we were still confident in our speed and what we were doing,” said Oman Air’s ace mainsail trimmer and tactician Pete Greenhalgh. “Eventually it started unfolding our way and we were able to take advantage of that.

“In the last race we just tried a bit too hard. We had a formula, tactics and strategy, that was working, and we modified it ever so slightly and it didn’t go so well. We tried to convert it back really quickly but it put us back in the pack and it’s really hard to get out of that.

“We will come out tomorrow fighting and hopefully not have the bumpy start we had today and start stamping some points on these guys, so when we go into the last double points race we’re in good shape.”

When the dust settled on a tumultuous day on the water Oman Air was just a point behind the SAP Extreme Sailing Team, and holding a slender three-point advantage over Alinghi.

It’s going to be quite a final day, not least for Oman Air’s Omani bowman Nasser Al Mashari: “We know we have got a lot to do to win here, but it is great to have a wave of local support behind us. It would mean a lot to me and to the whole crew to win here in Muscat.”

Superb sailing conditions across the inshore Stadium Sailing course brought out the competitive nature of the Extreme Sailing Series fleet, resulting in a flurry of general recalls with boats over the line at the start. One race saw three competitors disqualified after repeated infringements.

The single most dramatic moment of the day, however, involved Oman Air and Red Bull Racing in the penultimate race. Oman Air skipper Robertson demonstrated his World Match Racing Championship winning credentials by seeming to leave the door ajar at a mark, only to slam it shut forcing Red Bull Racing to take drastic action.

“It was pretty close for sure, but we’d planned it,” said a delighted Robertson. “We laid the bait out and he took it hook, line and sinker.”

Expect more of the same in tomorrow’s Extreme Sailing Series showdown.

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