2 July 2017, Madeira: On a concluding day of dramatic twists and turns in the Extreme Sailing Series, the Oman Air team secured a third place podium finish despite fickle winds which were a persistent feature of the Madeira event.
A committed performance in the final, double-points scoring race which saw them cross the line in second place – and in front of both their main rivals SAP Extreme Sailing Team and Alinghi – was not however enough to challenge for the top of the leaderboard.
Despite several strong starts and a Funchal breeze that was at least more stable than that of the previous day which saw only a single race sailed, Oman Air was unable to add to its tally of five race wins secured earlier in the four-day regatta despite leading on several occasions.
The team’s third place overall in Madeira matches their results from the preceding two events in Muscat and Qingdao, China. It also places them third in the overall Extreme Sailing Series title standings, which is led by Alinghi with SAP in the second spot.
The resilient Oman Air crew of skipper and helm Phil Robertson, tactician Pete Greenhalgh, Omani bowman Nasser Al Mashari and regulars James Wierzbowski and Ed Smyth, now have the opportunity to regroup before the next Act starts in Barcelona in less than three weeks on July 20.
The experienced Greenhalgh said: “It was a very, very tricky day which did not quite unfold our way. It’s another third, which is a podium finish, but we were definitely looking for a first or second.”
But he made it clear that Team Oman Air’s performance needed only some small refinements, rather than a wider review.
“We have been in and amongst it for the whole season and we are competitive, we have just got to do a bit better. It’s not back to the drawing board or anything like that, it is all very small margins. In the last race, for example, for 30 per cent of it we were second overall before Alinghi got a wriggle on.
“It’s all snakes and ladders, and we will have our turn.”
It is a view shared by Al Mashari: “A third again is good, but we had hoped to do better. We are right up there with the leading teams SAP and Alinghi. We have the Barcelona Act soon, quickly followed by Hamburg and Cardiff, so there will be plenty of opportunity to close the gap and then fight to take the lead.”
The Madeira Act was won by SAP Extreme team, the Danish crew helmed by New Zealander Adam Minoprio, who used every bit of his skill acquired when winning the 2009 World Match Racing Tour title. The Swiss, Alinghi, came second. And Red Bull Sailing Team, which had capsized during pre-race practice on day three, bounced back to win two races, including the double-points finale, to finish fourth.
While the high-performance GC32 catamarans were rarely able to demonstrate their foiling capabilities, the racing was for the most part close and unpredictable.
Meanwhile, the new Oman Sail entry to the Flying Phantom Series, skippered by Thomas Normand with Omani crew mate Ahmed Gharib, finished the class’ debut regatta in sixth place after 18 races in a competitive 12-strong international fleet.
Intended as a development pathway for emerging talent, the two-handed foiling catamarans will also be in high-speed action before the Extreme Sailing Series racing in Barcelona, Hamburg and Cardiff.