Muscat: Team Oman Air got their bid for Extreme Sailing Series (ESS) glory off to a solid start claiming third place in the season opener on their home waters of Muscat on Saturday.
The crew, now with $1 million World Match Racing Tour winner Phil Robertson at the helm, scored 16 podium finishes in 27 races including four wins as the nine Extreme Sailing Series crews went head to head for the first time this year.
A wet and wild final day saw Oman Air’s foiling GC32 catamaran blasting round the stadium racecourse off Almouj Golf at blistering speeds of more than 28 knots in pursuit of the first spoils of the season.
But they had to settle for third place after being bested by Danish crew SAP Extreme Sailing Team and 2016 Extreme Sailing Series champions Alinghi, from Switzerland.
Oman Air’s podium finish follows on from their victory last week in the inaugural GC32 Championship that saw 11 crews from the Extreme Sailing Series and the GC32 Racing Tour compete in Muscat.
A tricky opening day to the Act saw Oman Air struggle to find their trademark speed as the fleet did battle to the backdrop of Muscat’s old town of Muttrah.
A masterclass in consistency opposite Muscat’s Almouj Golf then saw them overhaul early leaders SAP Extreme Sailing Team to go top of the leaderboard.
In an epic penultimate day, Oman Air traded places at the top of the table with SAP Extreme Sailing Team and Alinghi on numerous occasions over nine intense races.
On Saturday, the three heavyweight teams went into the final double points-scoring race each capable of taking the overall win.
SAP Extreme Sailing Team clinched overall victory crossing the line in second, and in order to secure the runner-up spot Oman Air had to finish within one place of Alinghi.
But in a last-minute blow to their hopes Tawera Racing got between them right before the finish line and Oman Air were relegated to third.
Skipper Robertson admitted to being slightly disappointed but said the new-look crew on Team Oman Air had much to take from their first Extreme Sailing Series outing.
“We’re a bit gutted to end up third,” he said. “We were in some strong positions today and just managed to slip in the last race, but that’s yacht racing.
“It’s a long season and there are some really positive signs for the team. We’ve had a pretty good two events here in Muscat with a first place in the GC32 Championship and now a third in the Extreme Sailing Series. If you’d told us before the season that’s what we’d get we would have taken it.”
Oman Air’s long-serving bowman Nasser Al Mashari said the team would come back stronger in the remaining seven Acts as they attempt to better their second-place overall finish in 2016.
“It was a very tough final day here in Muscat,” he said. “We tried to do our best to hold on to our podium position and I think third is not too bad seeing as it’s only the beginning of the season. We will get better for the rest of the events but so far so good.”
It is the seventh year that Muscat has featured on the Extreme Sailing Series calendar and it is routinely described by the sailors as one of their favourite venues.
Act 1 of the Extreme Sailing Series is the latest high-profile event to be hosted by Oman Sail, the national initiative to reignite the maritime heritage of Oman, cementing Oman’s reputation as a world class venue.
The Extreme Sailing Series will resume with Act 2 in Qingdao, China, from April 28 to May 1.
ESS Act 1 results:
1.SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) - 286 points
2. Alinghi (SUI) - 270 points
3. Oman Air (OMA) - 270 points
4. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) - 247 points
5. Team Tilt (SUI) - 235 points
6. Team ENGIE (FRA) - 199 points
7. Tawera Racing (NZL) - 195 points
8. Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) - 173 points
9. NZL Sailing Team (NZL) - 142 points
ESS 2017 overall standings
1. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 12 points
2. Alinghi (SUI) 11 points
3. Oman Air (OMA) 10 points
4. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 9 points
5. Tawera Racing (NZL) 8 points
6. Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) 7 points
6. Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) 7 points