London: Oman Air heads to Wales this weekend with a two-pronged strategy to defend their strong track record at the Cardiff Bay venue and extend their overall lead in the 2016 Extreme Sailing Series. But first the team took time out to tour London and celebrate Oman Air’s twice daily flight to the city.
In past years, Oman Sail teams have dominated the action in the Welsh capital with three consecutive wins in 2013, 2014 and 2015 for The Wave, Muscat and four years ago victory for Oman Air, which was then skippered by Morgan Larson, as it is in 2016.
But past records are no guarantee of success and both Larson and his strategist Pete Greenhalgh know that a repeat win is only possible if they carry on improving at a faster rate than their rivals.
“If we sail well, we will hopefully win,” said Greenhalgh, Oman Air’s British mainsail trimmer and rock solid power train.
“At the last event in China, Alinghi just beat us but we didn’t sail consistently well throughout the whole event and they only just got past us so we were quite encouraged. Having said that, they have been racing on the other GC32 circuit which won’t do them any harm so we need to be on top of our game.
“We want to turn things round in Cardiff and the fact that I’m British and racing on home soil gives me added incentive – there are a few family and friends coming down so hopefully we can give them reason to cheer.”
Oman Air start racing on Thursday June 23 with a two-point lead over Alinghi and Red Bull Sailing Team who are in joint second place but putting the foiling GC32 through its paces in a confined space will almost certainly lead to some colourful invective being volleyed across the race track, according to Larson.
“Cardiff is a great venue - there’s good support from the public, the race course is challenging and fun and there is usually wind but the competition is heating up,” said Larson who will once again have Omani regular Nasser Al Mashari, James Wierzbowski and Ed Smyth to call on for added skill and muscle.
“This venue will be different this year because we are racing faster boats so we will be much more aware of the confined spaces. It’s like putting us all in a smaller box so there will be more heated exchanges between the sailors and probably more close calls.”
“We have a two-point lead but that will be tight and Alinghi are putting in time on these boats on the other GC32 circuit and are getting better so we will have our hands full with them. We have to carry on refining our own skills and strengths and focus on getting better.”
Before the serious business of point scoring gets underway, the Oman Air crew travelled to London to take part in a promotional tour of Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Trafalgar Square aboard an iconic London Bus. The visit was to highlight the Muscat-London twice daily Oman Air flight.
It was especially interesting for Oman’s Nasser Al Mashari who had never before visited the London landmarks.
“I feel lucky to be part of the Oman Air crew and to be representing my country – London is an important city to Oman Air and the British are regular visitors to Oman. We hope to welcome many more in the future.
“We have always enjoyed Cardiff – we won in the Extreme 40s so hope we can do it again in the GC32s. This year the forecast is for a light start with a steady build and some sunshine which sounds good. We are still learning the boat and the other teams are very strong but I am hopeful that we will do well.”
Racing action kicks off on Thursday June 23 and continues through to Sunday June 26.