5 October 2014. WHITLEY, UK: The concept of the Above and Beyond Award at the Extreme Sailing Series was conceived by Series Main Partner, Land Rover to reward the very best examples of skill, sportsmanship and strength of mind in the global sailing circuit. And at the penultimate Act in the French Riviera city of Nice, the Committee was unanimous that there was one outstanding example in the true spirit of Land Rover’s Above and Beyond ethos.
On the penultimate day of racing, and sitting second on the Act leaderboard, the youngest sailor in the fleet, Emirates Team New Zealand’s Edwin Delaat, was struck down by a virus rendering him unable to race. With the clock ticking down to the start of the action, the Kiwi team was desperate to find a solution as all teams must race with five crew members onboard.
Step up to the plate, Suleiman Al Manji, from the Kiwi team's arch-rival, The Wave, Muscat. Boat Builder, Al Manji, who has never raced onboard an Extreme 40, was plucked from the technical area and asked to swap his Oman Sail kit for the Kiwi shirt and become an integral part of the pro race team.
Thanks to Suleiman’s last minute call-up, the Emirates Team New Zealand crew kept their grip on the podium, finishing in third after an exhausting seven races in the mediterranean heat.
The Emirates Team New Zealand crew was delighted with their protégé’s performance. “Tactically he was bloody awesome!” said 14 times multihull World Champion, Glenn Ashby. 49er World Champion and Emirates Team New Zealand Mainsail Trimmer Blair Tuke agreed. “It was great to have Suleiman onboard, he was thrown in the deep-end and he did a really great job and I think he enjoyed himself. He should be exceptionally proud of his performance and it was great to have him as part of the team.“
Land Rover Above and Beyond Award committee member and America’s Cup sailor, Dave Carr, explained the decision. “Suleiman has just had one of the biggest sporting call-ups of his career, and possibly in sailing. He’s an exceptionally talented boat builder, and to receive the nod, to join some of the world’s greatest and most talented sailors there are, to step onboard Emirates Team New Zealand, and to have to race at their level, without any prior training, makes him an outstanding winner.
“This demonstrates to the full, the true spirit of the Extreme Sailing Series family: the ability to not only be prepared to swap team colours in the hour of need, but to then perform at such a high, tactically advanced level. It's definitely helped the Kiwi team to keep their hold on the podium and has won respect from everyone in the boat park. Suleiman is without doubt a worthy winner.”
Suleiman Al Manji has previously won the Above and Beyond Award. In Qingdao, China, Al Manji was part of the team which won the first award as an ‘unsung hero’ of the Oman Sail shore crew, working throughout the night to make a major repair to Oman Air following an on-water crash.
A beaming Suleiman Al Maji commented, “I was a little bit nervous as it was the first time I had sailed on an Extreme 40, but I was happy and very excited to go and sail with Emirates Team New Zealand. Next year, I’d love to race more – I’d love to do both, sailing and boat building!”
Act 7 of the Extreme Sailing Series was won by Alinghi, who currently top the leaderboard, with The Wave, Muscat in second and Emirates Team New Zealand in third, heading into the final Act which will take place in Sydney, Australia, from 11-14 December.