Muscat: The Oman Air team head into the penultimate Act in the year-long Extreme Sailing Series (ESS) confident they can close the narrow gap to the top of the overall table.
San Diego is new territory for the high-speed GC32 foiling catamarans, but all six of the regular crews – along with two wildcard entries – will see the southern Californian venue as an opportunity to stake their claim to a top spot before the eighth and final Act in Mexico next month.
A third place podium finish in Cardiff last time out has positioned Oman Air second in the overall standings, just two points behind Welsh winners and leaders SAP Extreme Sailing Team.
Team Oman Air – skipper Phil Robertson, Pete Greenhalgh, Nasser Al Mashari, James Wierzbowski and Ed Smyth – are also three points clear of defending Extreme Sailing Series champions Alinghi who are in third place.
“We are definitely going to San Diego with confidence,” said veteran Extreme Sailing Series sailor Greenhalgh, mainsail trimmer and tactician on Oman Air.
“Coming third in Cardiff was a bit of a let down so we are looking forward to getting a good series in and really gathering some momentum, and San Diego is the event to do it,” he added.
The Oman Air crew know the series will not be decided in the USA, but aim to be right in the mix going forward with a good result there.
Omani bowman Al Mashari said: “We want to be right on the heels of SAP or even level or in front of them at the end of the San Diego Act.
“Being up with them will give us the real opportunity to win the season overall at the last event in Mexico, which carries double points, and that is what we are working towards.”
As the only crew to have finished on the podium at every Act this season, Oman Air has consistency – as well as a pair of back-to-back outright victories – to sustain their challenge.
And they are bringing a little extra with them to San Diego, with Greenhalgh having raced with Robertson at the recent Chicago Match Cup all the way to a place in the final.
“It was the first time I had had the opportunity to race with his match race crew,” said Greenhalgh. “It was definitely a great experience and one we can take into San Diego.
“The more time you spend racing with each other, and analysing and debriefing, the closer you get to communicating perfectly, being on the same page all the time and being in synch, it’s what we are looking for.”
Racing at the Extreme Sailing Series San Diego Act begins on Thursday and concludes on Sunday.