Oman Air goes top of the Extreme Sailing Series after a dramatic victory in Hamburg
Having led from the start of the German regatta, the crew of the high-speed GC32 catamaran saw their lead whittled away on the last day to a single point before a race win – only their third of the Act – gave them a narrow lead going into the double-points finale.
While their chief rivals for the Act title, SAP Extreme Sailing Team, won the final race the experienced Oman Air crew closely shadowed the Danish boat across the line in second to win the River Elbe event by just three points.
Back-to-back wins in Barcelona and now Hamburg has seen Oman Air climb from third place overall to lead the Extreme Sailing Series.
“It is a great feeling to be top of the leaderboard – we are very happy and the team has worked extremely hard and deserve it,” said Oman Air’s veteran tactician Pete Greenhalgh.
“When you have these really tight racecourses it’s just so important to keep positive and hopefully it will go your way. We looked for simple starts to give us options, and our crew work was exceptional and we were sailing the boat fast, carving our way through the fleet. It was brutal at times, a very physical day,” he added.
On the final day, Oman Air saw their overnight eight-point advantage chipped away by the pursuing pack, with a tenacious SAP just a point behind after four races.
Phil Robertson’s team of Greenhalgh, Nasser Al Mashari, James Wierzbowski and Ed Smyth then pulled a win out of the bag, and a second place, to establish a five-point lead going into the double-point final race.
Skipper Robertson said at that point their strategy was clear: “In the last race we stuck to SAP like glue and made sure they couldn’t get away and put two boats between us.
“Earlier in the day we knew our lead was getting smaller and smaller but we just did the things we had talked about and tried to stay in the top three in every race and that was the difference.
“It’s been shifty and puffy, and with the current here it’s not an easy place to sail, but that’s sailing on rivers, you’ve got all the variables. Plus, you’re in the middle of a city here, so it’s a fantastic view but the downside is it’s tricky to race in – it was good for us and we managed to handle it just fine.”
Omani bowman Al Mashari was also delighted with their result: “It has been a difficult few days at times but it has all worked out, and all our hard work has paid off. After winning in Barcelona it is great to come here and be able to win again and put ourselves on top of the overall leaderboard.”
Oman Air is tied in first place in the Extreme Sailing Series with SAP after five of the season’s eight events. Both have 54 points with Oman Air taking top spot on countback. The Swiss team Alinghi, the defending champions, are third on 50 points.
The quick-fire European phase of the season continues in two weeks’ time with another four days of high-intensity racing in Cardiff, Wales. The series then moves to San Diego, California, in October, before culminating in Los Cabos, Mexico, at the end of November.
In the accompanying Flying Phantom Series, the Oman Sail entry finished sixth at the Hamburg Act in the 12-strong fleet of the two-handed foiling catamarans.
After 17 races skipper Thomas Normand and Antoine Joubert had posted a series of top-five finishes to secure their place in the top half of the highly competitive fleet.
On the overall Flying Phantom leaderboard Oman Sail is in fifth spot, a single point behind US entry Lupe Tortilla and only two behind third placed Solidaires En Peleton.
The Flying Phantoms will be back in action at the Cardiff Act from August 25.