Oman Air are the team to beat at Extreme Sailing Series decider in Mexico
Friday, December 1, 2017 9:58 AM
The experienced team showed they were the boat to beat as their high-speed foiling catamaran reeled off a succession of first and second places at the start of a four-day title deciding Act in Los Cabos.
After six races Oman Air topped the leaderboard ahead of defending 2016 Extreme Sailing Series champions Alinghi and overall season leaders SAP Extreme Sailing Team, in second and third place respectively, as the only team among the eight present not to record a finish off the podium.
The Phil Robertson skippered Oman Air crew of Pete Greenhalgh, Nasser Al Mashari, Ed Smyth and James Wierzbowski went into the 2017 decider in second place overall, five points adrift of the Danish-flagged SAP team and a single point ahead of the Swiss Alinghi crew.
The team shrugged off a highly untypical fourth place finish at the previous Act in San Diego, fully aware that the unique double-points scoring on offer in Los Cabos could give them a final shot at the title.
“It was a really good sailing day on the water and we had a great day - we broke a jib sheet which may have cost us another race win, but otherwise we had an amazing day,” said an exuberant Greenhalgh, Oman Air’s veteran tactician and mainsail trimmer.
“It was a case of everything coming together right from the beginning. The communication on board is really good and definitely improved, we had been working on that. We have also made a small tweak to the way we approach the racing and have been working on that since we got out here.”
And Greenhalgh added: “It’s all to play for and it’s not over until the last race, so we will just chip away and do what we need to do, and see what happens behind us.”
At the end of a day which saw 17 knot gusts with 30 degree shifts in wind direction, Oman Air finished on 67 points, a full seven ahead of Alinghi, with SAP on 58 points after coming last in the final race. Aside from the leading trio, both NZ Extreme Sailing Team and Land Rover BAR Academy took a race win apiece to keep alive the chance of a last-gasp upset as the season draws to a close.
Bowman Al Mashari said: “We have had a great start but we know there are another three days to go, so nothing is decided. Our plan is really to come back and do the same tomorrow and the next day and so on. If we can keep the momentum things could be great. It’s a happy boat and today it was really going quickly upwind.”
With less wind forecast on Friday there is a chance racing could be moved further offshore, where bigger waves offer the prospect of additional thrills for the Extreme Sailing Series fleet. Racing continues until Sunday.