Muscat: Team Oman Air’s year-long campaign for the first Extreme Sailing Series GC32 trophy was foiled at the final hurdle in Sydney by a flawless performance from rivals Alinghi, who dominated the Act and were crowned 2016 champions.
A thrilling final day saw the fleet complete a full programme of eight races in superb conditions and Morgan Larson’s team gathered vital points from three podium finishes to secure a third place in Sydney which guaranteed them second place overall in the championship.
The intense rivalry between the two teams once again proved the hallmark of 2016 throughout an epic programme of 169 races in eight different Acts with every event dominated by either Oman Air or Alinghi.
The Oman team were victorious in Muscat, Cardiff and Hamburg in the first half of the season while the Swiss moved up a gear to win Qingdao and the final four events of the season to take the series crown with a two-point overall advantage.
Larson, who was skipper of Alinghi in 2014 when they last won the Extreme title, was first to congratulate his old adversaries.
“Alinghi earned this title and deserved it so congratulations to them,” he said. “They are amazing but the message is they won’t get it next year!
“Today was an amazing day of sailing. We had a big margin to catch up and doing that against a team that are a step better than us was always going to be hard and we needed a bit of magic.
“We gave it a good effort. There were times when it looked like it could happen but in the end Alinghi showed exactly why they deserved to win.”
He also paid tribute to the world-class Oman Air crew of Pete Greenhalgh, Ed Smyth, James Wierzbowski and Nasser Al Mashari who had given their all to the 2016 campaign.
“Our team was solid all the way through with good chemistry and great teamwork,” he said.
“Everybody worked together and gave it every last bit of energy they had. It wasn’t enough but we had a good time.”
Oman Air bowman Nasser Al Mashari added that they had done their best but had lost out to an outstanding crew.
“We aimed to get first overall and tried our best but it just wasn’t happening despite some fantastic boat handling and communications so I am happy with second,” said Al Mashari.
“We tried to stay ahead of Alinghi but there was just no luck. But I am so proud of Oman Air and next year, it will be a different story inshallah.”
David Graham, CEO of Oman Sail added his congratulations to the series winners. “It has been a tough year for the guys on Oman Air, but sport is like that sometimes. The team are disappointed not to win the season, as they have been at the right end of the leaderboard all year. Congratulations to Alinghi, they were solid when they needed to be.
“Our sponsors, Oman Air, are delighted to have finished on the 2016 Extreme Sailing Series podium and a happy sponsor is important. The hard work and determination right through to the last race does Oman Sail proud, the team are inspiring a raft of Omani youngsters who are coming up through our youth sailing programme in Oman and with a mentor like Al Mashari it’s not surprising - a true professional.”
The Extreme Sailing Series returns to Muscat in March for the opening act of the 2017 season.