Experience is key as Team Oman Air prepare for Extreme Sailing Series round two
Monday, April 24, 2017 12:12 PM
Team Oman Air skipper Phil Robertson says his crew's unrivalled experience could prove vital to victory in the second round of the Extreme Sailing Series as the fleet heads to the famously tricky waters of Qingdao, China.
Known worldwide for hosting sailing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Qingdao is notorious for its ability to catch crews off guard with a fickle breeze that can go from next to nothing to gale force in a matter of minutes.
What's more, the prevailing winds blow through the city's skyline creating an uneven racecourse full of wind holes that can reward or punish teams in equal measure.
While Kiwi sailor Robertson has only competed on Fushan Bay twice previously, Oman Air stalwarts Pete Greenhalgh and Ed Smyth know its quirks all too well having sailed there every year since its Extreme Sailing Series debut in 2011.
It's this deep understanding that could give Oman Air a welcome advantage over their rivals as they look to better their third-place finish in the Extreme Sailing Series' opening Act on their home waters of Muscat last month.
“All in all the first Act was a massive success for us as a new team with a new dynamic,” said Robertson, who took over the helm of Oman Air at the start of the 2017 season. “It all went really well – we all got on brilliantly and I really like the sailing style of the guys so we're all happy.
“However Qingdao is a totally different beast to Muscat – it can throw anything at you. It has a massive reputation as a tricky place to sail and this Act is always a hard event to compete in for that reason. We're expecting anything to come at us.
“The team is extremely experienced and that's vital when you sail in venues like Qingdao. Pete and Ed have probably done the most sailing in Qingdao out of the entire fleet and that's a very valuable asset to have onboard.”
The four-day regatta will see Oman Air lock horns with six other top-class crews including Act 1 winners SAP Extreme Sailing Team, 2016 Extreme Sailing Series champions Alinghi and tour veterans Red Bull Sailing Team.
The young guns of Land Rover BAR Academy and NZ Extreme Sailing Team, plus wildcard crew Team Extreme, complete the fleet line-up.
While still having eyes on another podium finish, Robertson said his team will be looking to iron out any issues that arose in the season opener in their quest to become the most formidable outfit on the water.
“It's still early in the season and we have to keep chipping away,” he said. “It's a long series and you can't win it at this stage of the season. We've got some little things we've identified to improve on and that's going to be our main focus.”
Nasser Al Mashari, Oman Air's long-serving Omani bowman, said the team would aim to step up a gear when racing begins in Qingdao on Friday April 28.
“We had a great start to the season but we know Fushan Bay is a tricky place to sail,” he said. “We will be well prepared for anything that it throws at us.”
Act 2 begins on Friday April 28 and runs until Monday May 1.
The action will be streamed live online on the official event website at www.extremesailingseries.com on April 30 and May 1 from 1400 to 1700 local time (GMT+8).