Muscat delivered classic conditions in an electrifying finale to the opening Act of the Extreme Sailing Series that saw SAP Extreme Sailing Team become the first winners of 2017.
Clear blue skies combined with a blustery north-easterly breeze gusting 25 knots as nine international crews hit the uncharacteristically choppy waters of Oman's capital city.
The action was nothing short of spectacular as the fleet of foiling GC32 catamarans flew round Muscat's stadium racecourse off Almouj Golf.
With boat speeds hitting upwards of 31 knots the crews were pushed to the limit as they fought to tame their bucking GC32s over six nail-biting races.
After 26 races over four days three teams – SAP Extreme Sailing Team, Oman Air and Alinghi – went into the final race, worth double points, capable of taking the overall win.
But after a fast and furious race SAP Extreme Sailing Team, helmed by Kiwi Adam Minoprio, clinched Act 1 victory with a second-place finish, crossing the line behind young wildcard crew Team Tilt.
It is the first Act win for SAP Extreme Sailing Team since May 2015 when they took the top spot in Qingdao, China.
“It was a great day and a fantastic achievement for the team,” co-skipper Rasmus Køstner said. “We knew we were in the lead going into the last race and we really wanted to win the Act.
“It was full-on racing and we had to fight until the last race but it was fantastic to cross the finish line winning the regatta. It's been a little while since we've won but it's nice to be back on the top of the leaderboard.”
The final race also saw 2016 Extreme Sailing Series champions Alinghi snatch second place overall from Oman Air right on the finish line.
Alinghi needed to beat Oman Air with a boat in between them to leapfrog them on the scoreboard and they did just that, as Tawera Racing overtook Phil Robertson's home team at the last minute.
“This is a really good start to the season for us,” said Alinghi helmsman Arnaud Psarofaghis. “I'm a little disappointed about how I sailed this week, it wasn't at the best level, but every day we caught up a little bit and we ended up with second which is good. The crew did a fantastic job and I just need to be a little bit better next time.”
Oman Air skipper Robertson, who replaces Morgan Larson this season, said he was disappointed to have been knocked off the runner-up spot in the last race but that his new-look crew had much to take from the Act.
“We were in some strong positions today and just managed to slip in the last race which is a bit of a shame, but that's yacht racing and it's what we've got to get better at,” he said.
Austrian crew Red Bull Sailing Team had to settle for fourth place ahead of Team Tilt and Team ENGIE in fifth and sixth respectively.
Chris Steele's Tawera Racing, who join the Extreme Sailing Series this season, finished seventh, with Land Rover BAR Academy in eighth and NZL Sailing Team in ninth.
Despite finishing at the bottom of the table NZL Sailing Team were awarded the Zhik Trophy for the fastest boat speed in the Act after they notched up an incredible 31 knots on the penultimate race today.
The four days of thrilling racing were the perfect start to the 11th year of the Extreme Sailing Series that sees eight Acts held in three continents culminating in a season finale in Los Cabos, Mexico, in December. The Extreme Sailing Series excitement will resume with Act 2 in Qingdao, China, from April 28 to May 1.
You can replay the live from day three and four on the official Facebook and YouTube channels.
Extreme Sailing Series Act 1, Muscat standings after Day 4, 27 races (11.3.17)
Position / Team / Points
1st SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Adam Minoprio, Rasmus Køstner, Mads Emil Stephensen, Hervé Cunnigham, Richard Mason 286 points.
2nd Alinghi (SUI) Arnaud Psarofaghis, Nicolas Charbonnier, Timothé Lapauw, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 270 points.
3rd Oman Air (OMA) Phil Robertson, Pete Greenhalgh, James Wierzbowski, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari 270 points.
4th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Stewart Dodson, Adam Piggott, Will Tiller 247 points.
5th Team Tilt (SUI) Sebastien Schneiter, Jéremy Bachelin, Nils Theuninck, Arthur Cevey, Jocelyn Keller 235 points.
6th Team ENGIE (FRA) Sébastien Rogues, Gurvan Bontemps, Jules Bidegaray, Antoine Joubert, Benjamin Amiot 199 points.
7th Tawera Racing (NZL) Chris Steele, Graeme Sutherland, Shane Diviney, Leonard Takahashi Fry, Josh Salthouse 195 points.
8th Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) Rob Bunce, Owen Bowerman, Will Alloway, Adam Kay, Oli Greber 173 points.
9th NZL Sailing Team (NZL) Logan Dunning Beck, Harry Hull, Isaac McHardie, Matthew Kempkers, Luca Brown 142 points.
Extreme Sailing Series 2017 overall standings
Position / Team / Points
1st SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 12 points.
2nd Alinghi (SUI) 11 points.
3rd Oman Air (OMA) 10 points.
4th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 9 points.
5th Tawera Racing (NZL) 8 points.
6th Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) 7 points.