The eight Extreme Sailing Series™ teams took to the water in Oman for the penultimate day of racing today, in what proved to be a light airs test of tactics and patience as the fleet continued their steep learning curve on the GC32 catamarans.
Proving they are masters of both light airs and strong breeze, the tough conditions barely fazed Oman Air, who managed to find an extra gear, keeping the gas on and their concentration up. They added another two race wins to their tally – their overall scoreboard in Muscat barely showing a blip to top the rankings.
The light, shifty wind brought with it a change of fortunes for British Olympian Stevie Morrison and his co-skipper on Team Turx, Edhem Dirvana who put in a confidence-boosting performance as the second highest scorers of the day. The team, which includes former Luna Rossa America’s Cup sailor and past Extreme Sailing Series champion Alister Richardson, showed they all have the necessary talent to get up to speed quickly on the GC32.
Speaking about the switch to foiling, Dirvana commented: “I love it, foiling is the way forward and for the Series I think the evolution happened at the right time. The circuit is pushing us as sailors to learn more, and I think it’s giving our sport the edge that’s needed.”
Tomorrow’s final battle for the podium is raging, but a mixed day of results for SAP Extreme Sailing Team has put a little more light between them and Oman Air than the Danes will be comfortable with. Co-skipper Jes Gram-Hansen commented: “We’re not happy with the start of the day, but it was good to bounce back in the last race, sail a beautiful start, with good pace and sail well around the course to take the win. We expected Oman Air to be strong this year, but I think when the breeze is up we’re generally happy with our performance. It feels like we found a bit of the magic today key to perform well in the light stuff, so if we can keep improving, we hope we can close the gap.”
Just three points back are Land Rover BAR Academy, the youth team in third place, with the more experienced team Alinghi, breathing down their necks, one point behind. Bleddyn Môn, skipper on the British Youth boat commented: “We didn’t really have any expectations coming in to the week, as we didn’t know where we would end up, but we’ve had some good results and we’re happy. It’s a good event for us so far and we’ll hopefully be passing on some of our knowledge to the young lads. I think the 2016 season is going to be really exciting, there’s lots to look forward to.”
Austria’s Red Bull Sailing Team currently sit in fifth place, while CHINA One and Sail Portugal continue to get to grips with both a new breed of boat, and the stadium style of racing the Extreme Sailing Series is renowned for – a challenge three-times Olympian and Portuguese skipper Diogo Cayolla is relishing. “I think our boat handling improved as a team today and we were then able to look to increase our distance from some of the other teams. I think we’re getting better each day. I’m enjoying sailing these boats even more than I thought I would. The foiling was just amazing earlier in the week, but even in today’s light winds, we can still sail good races.”
As the opening Act of the 2016 Series nears its close, any pre-season form guide has been all but thrown out the window, with all the teams showing they are capable of picking up good results – but can any of the challengers steal the top spot from Oman Air on home turf? Watch tomorrow’s final races from 1530GMT+4, to find out.
Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 1, Muscat standings after Day 3, 13 races (18.03.16)
Position / Team / Points
1st Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson, Pete Greenhalgh, James Wierzbowski, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari 145 points.
2nd SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Mads Emil Stephensen, Pierluigi De Felice, Renato Conde 119 points.
3rd Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) Bleddyn Môn, Leigh McMillan, Ed Powys, Adam Kay, Neil Hunter 116 points.
4th Alinghi (SUI) Ernesto Bertarelli, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Nicolas Charbonnier, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 115 points.
5th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Stewart Dodson, Adam Piggott, Brad Farrand 110 points.
6th Team Turx (TUR) Edhem Dirvana, Stevie Morrison, Cem Gözen, Alister Richardson, Anıl Berk Baki 99 points.
7th CHINA One (CHN) Taylor Canfield, Chris Steele, Shane Diviney, Hayden Goodrick, Luke Payne 92 points.
8th Sail Portugal (POR) Diogo Cayolla, Bernardo Freitas, Javier de la Plaza, Luís Brito, Winston Macfarlane 83 points.
– Extreme Series Media