Morgan Larson stormed home to an extraordinary win in the opening Act of the 2016 Extreme Sailing Series™ in Muscat on Oman Air, alongside the team, which includes Pete Greenhalgh, James Wierzbowski, Ed Smyth and Omani national Nasser Al Mashari. Together the team won over 50% of the races sailed, more than any other team in Series history, as the Extreme Sailing Series officially completes the biggest transition of the last ten years. The flying GC32s have well and truly arrived.
Larson summed up the week: “It was a phenomenal week for the whole team and obviously great to do that here on home waters. We sailed at the highest level we have, so it’s going to take a lot of work for us to improve on from here. We know that a few of the other teams have some things to do and when they get that right, they’re going to be right there with us. We know they’re going to push and we have to keep on getting better.”
Muscat saved the best for last, cranking up the breeze for the final two races that literally saw the eight GC32s flying around the track, and at times teetering on the edge. Charging into the final race, four boats – SAP Extreme Sailing Team, Land Rover BAR Academy, Alinghi and Red Bull Sailing Team – were gunning for the podium positions, and a betting man would have thought it was SAP’s day. But the Danes missed a mark rounding, and when realising their error, crash-gybed, almost loosing their bowman Renato Conde in the process. Their mistake resulted in zero points in the race and a tumble down the rankings to finish in fifth.
A visibly dejected co-skipper Jes Gram-Hansen commented: “We are very disappointed right now. We’ve been second throughout the whole of the regatta. We had a great start, and were leading the race and then unfortunately we didn’t take the right course, we thought we were heading to the finish and there was still one lap to go. We made a major error. Saying that we sailed well, and have been throughout the whole regatta. Oman Air sailed really strong all week, but I think we should have been on the podium.”
Red Bull Sailing Team, who came into the day in fifth place, elevated their game, charging out with the bit between their teeth to take victory in the first two races of the day as well as the final double-pointer, and more importantly, second overall. Skipper Roman Hagara commented: “It was a really tough day. We started quite well but it came down to the final race, and we put everything into it. In the end, it was perfect for us.”
Land Rover BAR Academy, with 2015 Extreme Sailing Series winner Leigh McMillan at the helm alongside skipper Bleddyn Môn, took third place in the final race, and third place overall, leaving Alinghi three points back in fourth.
McMillan commented: “I’m feeling pretty pleased with a podium finish for the Academy at the first event of the season. Being a brand new team, and this, for a lot of the guys, is the first time they’ve sailed a boat like this. It’s just a fantastic result. Everyone on the team has been performing really well and the experience they’re gaining in such a short period of time is huge.”
The 19 races staged over four days delivered a sensational opening Act to the 2016 Extreme Sailing Series, as Andy Tourell, Event Director summed up: “The switch to the GC32 catamaran is the biggest transition the Series has ever been through, and Muscat has delivered near perfect conditions to get the Series off to a fantastic start. The competition on the water has been fierce, with the form guide all but ripped up as the fleet get to grips with flying. Next stop is China, where we will see more open water racing combined with our unique Stadium format.”
With seven Acts left on the global tour, and plenty of skills for the fleet to perfect as the year goes on, the 2016 Series looks set to go from strength to strength. Next stop, China, 29 April-2 May.
Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 1, Muscat standings after Day 4, 19 races (19.03.16)
Position / Team / Points
1st Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson, Pete Greenhalgh, James Wierzbowski, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari 217 points.
2nd Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Stewart Dodson, Adam Piggott, Brad Farrand 184 points.
3rd Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) Bleddyn Môn, Leigh McMillan, Ed Powys, Adam Kay, Neil Hunter 175 points.
4th Alinghi (SUI) Ernesto Bertarelli, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Nicolas Charbonnier, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 172 points.
5th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Mads Emil Stephensen, Pierluigi De Felice, Renato Conde 166 points.
6th CHINA One (CHN) Taylor Canfield, Chris Steele, Shane Diviney, Hayden Goodrick, Luke Payne 153 points.
7th Team Turx (TUR) Edhem Dirvana, Stevie Morrison, Cem Gözen, Alister Richardson, Anıl Berk Baki 140 points.
8th Sail Portugal (POR) Diogo Cayolla, Bernardo Freitas, Javier de la Plaza, Luís Brito, Winston Macfarlane 138 points.
– Extreme Series