Muscat: Fresh from back-to-back victories in the Extreme Sailing Series (ESS), the Oman Air team head to Cardiff this week aiming to maintain a 100 percent winning streak by Omani crews at the UK venue.
In all five previous events on Cardiff Bay dating back to 2012 an Oman Sail entry – either Oman Air or The Wave, Muscat – have emerged as the winners.
It is an unrivalled sequence of success the current Oman Air crew will want to continue as they set out to reinforce their position on top of the overall series leaderboard.
Wins in both the Barcelona and Hamburg Acts have put the Phil Robertson skippered team of Pete Greenhalgh, Nasser Al Mashari, James Wierzbowski and Ed Smyth tied at the head of the table with SAP Extreme Sailing Team, though crucially ahead on countback.
Extreme Sailing Series veteran Greenhalgh is hoping history will be on their side as an intense four days of Bank Holiday weekend racing looms.
“The first year we raced in Cardiff Oman Air won with Nasser, and I was second on The Wave,” he recalled. “The following years I won on The Wave, then last year both Nasser and I won with Oman Air.”
Al Mashari too is delighted to be back racing at a venue that has been a happy hunting ground over the years: “The racing here can be really good, and we have been fortunate to have had a lot of success here before.
“We have put together two great results in Barcelona and Hamburg and we are right back in the season, so it would be great to get another win, but we know how competitive SAP can be and Alinghi is sure to be challenging us as well.”
After - by their standards - an indifferent start to the Extreme Sailing Series season with three third-place finishes, Oman Air stormed back into contention at the Spanish and German Acts. However, the Danish SAP team have also won two of the five Acts to date, and with Adam Minoprio at the helm have shown themselves to be skilled and tenacious rivals.
Meanwhile, defending champions Alinghi - with a win and two second place finishes to their credit – sit in third place overall and are sure to bounce back from an entirely untypical sixth place finish in Hamburg.
The tight, stadium course in Cardiff bears comparison with Hamburg, says Greenhalgh, who is hoping for a stronger breeze than the one they found on the River Elbe two weeks ago.
“Cardiff is a very similar course in some ways to Hamburg, but it all depends on which way the wind blows,” he said. “It has been known to be a windy event, but we will have to wait and see. We didn’t see a lot of foiling in Hamburg, but we can hope to get more of it in Cardiff.”
Cardiff will also see the final appearance of the Flying Phantom Series, with the high-speed, two-handed foiling catamarans in action on all four days before the Extreme Sailing Series boats take to the water.
The Red Bull Sailing Team currently leads going into the title-deciding event, with the Oman Sail entry in fifth spot with a realistic shot at a podium finish. Crew Thomas Normand and Antoine Joubert are a single point behind the US entry Lupe Tortilla and only two behind third placed Solidaires En Peleton from France.