Oman on a roll

As Chris Draper/Pete Cumming's crew score five bullets on the opening day of the iShares Cup in Cowes

Saturday August 1st 2009, Author: Lou Newlands, Location: United Kingdom
Day 1 of the iShares Cup at Cowes Week firmly belongs to Pete Cumming and the crew of Oman Sail Masirah - winning 5 out of the 6 races held today. Olympic Double Gold Medalist Shirley Robertson and her crew on Team iShares excelled at their ‘home’ event, benefiting from their local knowledge scoring their best result to date in the iShares Cup 2009 series and go into the second day of competition in second place on the leaderboard. French team Gitana Extreme - Groupe LCF Rothschild rallied in the second half to put them third overall just ahead of Loick Peyron on Oman Sail's Renaissance. Throughout the racing there was plenty of action - the 40-ft catamarans regularly flying a hull thanks to the sometimes gusty conditions, the crews screaming for water, daring to come as close to the shore as possible without hitting the rocks - all keeping the spectators enthralled at the iShares Cup Race Village which is currently proving to be the most popular place in Cowes.

Six races were held in total on day 1 of the iShares Cup at Cowes Week - the UK round marking the halfway point of the six-stage European circuit. The first two races were straightforward reaching upwind and downwind legs but as the wind veered west, the game changed dramatically.

The first race went to Oman Sail Masirah - Pete Cumming and Chris Draper throwing the gauntlet down to the other teams. With the absence of BMW Oracle Racing, Oman Sail Masirah go into this third round of the iShares Cup Extreme 40 Sailing Series as favourites and the team wasted no time in stepping up to the mark with another emphatic win in race 2. Oman Sail stable-mate Renaissance driven by Loick Peyron finished 2nd and both BT and Team iShares were starting to put in some strong performances - 3rd and 4th place in the second race – proving that the local knowledge these teams have between them were paying dividends.

Regular Groupama 40 skipper Franck Cammas is currently hurtling across the Atlantic at high-speed trying to break the record, but his Extreme 40 team here helmed by Gildas Philippe got a great start to race 3 and kept their cool to score their first win at the UK round. As the wind veered the nine-boat Extreme 40 fleet were suddenly in a different game - tacking upwind and gybing downwind adding an element of both opportunity and excitement as the breeze strengthened. But the Oman Sail team continued to pile on the pressure - Peyron took Renaissance across the line in second and Masirah in third, finishing half a boat length ahead of Nick Moloney on BT.

A penalty for Gitana Extreme skipper Yann Guichard didn't stop his determination to get back in to race 4, pulling out all the stops to cross the line in 2nd behind Oman Sail's Masirah who had clearly taken control of the day’s racing. Carolijn Brouwer driving Holmatro had a great first half to the race but lost out in the closing stages... In the final gybe to the line she must have thought third place was hers until Cowes girl Shirley Robertson stormed past to claim the final spot on the race 4 podium - that result moved Team iShares up into second place on the iShares Cup Cowes leaderboard.

The penultimate race of the day saw French multihull legend, Loick Peyron, make an unusual mistake missing the finish gate gifting first place to his Oman Sail teammate Masirah who stormed past Shirley Robertson who had to settle for third. Going into the final race of Day 1 Oman Sail Masirah had a 9-point lead and on their current form few doubted the outcome. Five wins out of six races for a team that savoured victory in round 2 in Hyères clearly want to taste more - Pete Cumming and his crew are the ones to watch out for at the UK round of the six-stage European iShares Cup circuit.

More photos on the following pages...

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