Victory for home team
First European champions, now Oman Sail's Masirah has been crowned champion of the Extreme Sailing Series Asia. This event was billed locally as 'Oman Sail versus The World' and they came out on top in style. It was a great victory on their home soil and it went to the wire with Masirah winning the final race of the Muscat event to clinch both the regatta title and take the Extreme Sailing Series Asia crown. The Wave, Muscat and China Team completed the podium in second and third also for the regatta and overall.
This three-event Asian tour has seen many familiar faces from the European tour, such as, double Olympic Gold Medalist Shirley Robertson, solo round the world skipper Nick Moloney and European Champion Pete Cumming, while newcomers Thierry Barot on China Team and double Olympic Tornado gold medallist Roman Hagara on Red Bull Extreme Sailing have gone from a 'standing start' to put in an awesome performance, pushing the more seasoned racers all the way.
The Asian circuit kicked off in Hong Kong, then Singapore before ending here in Muscat at a full public event.
"It was very impressive, right in front of the public but still this sport is very intense, delivery is very high in terms of tactics and strategies. I really believe it is the future of sailing," said China Team Skipper Thierry Barot. "This is what sailing needs in term of development - the Extreme Sailing Series is a sport in itself."
At the start of the fifth and final day of the Extreme Sailing Series Asia Muscat event there were a few worried and tense looking sailors on the dockside - the wind was blowing over 20 knots and the anticipation of some tense battles ahead only heightened the stakes. China Team and Paul Campbell-James and the crew on The Wave, Muscat were on equal points at the start of racing with Masirah just one point behind and it was clear this was where the battle for the podium would be taking place.
Red Bull Extreme Sailing, which suffered a capsize yesterday, were just one point ahead of Nick Moloney's BT, while Shirley Robinson on Rumbo Almeria knew she could play catch up if things went in her favour.
As the local crowds gathered on Al-Hail beach for the final day of the 'Extreme Beach Party', racing got underway with two rounds of 'speed runs'.
The reefed Extreme 40s relished these high-speed conditions courtesy of the 20+ knots of northwesterly wind, and flew down the windward/leeward course flying the hulls in front of the packed VIP platform.
As the wind dropped to around 10 knots, the huge mainsails were hoisted to the top of the masts, and fleet racing began. The Oman Sail boats led the way - first place for The Wave, Muscat and second for Masirah. China Team finished in fourth place behind BT, putting them six points behind leaders. There was another drama for Red Bull as her mainsail came tumbling down mid-race. They quickly hoisted a man of the mast to sort it out and were back racing in time for the penultimate race.
The pressure was at the max... The skippers jostling for position on the short start line - Paul Campbell-James misjudged the start and was over the line, forcing him to restart as their teammates sailed away to snatch the race. China Team struggled in the lighter airs, as the Oman boats pulled ahead on the leaderboard. But the double-points final race was coming up...
His Highness Sayyid Shahab bin Tariq Al Said, Advisor to His Majesty, His Excellency Maqbool bin Ali bin Sultan, Minister of Commerce and Industry and Her Excellency Dr. Rajiha bint Abdulameer bin Ali, Minister of Tourism, joined the VIP guests on the platform for the start of the final race.
Only just enough wind remained to propel the boats over the line. Pete Cumming takes up the story: "We're quite a heavy crew so when the wind went right down, we had a bit on as the guys on The Wave are light and very quick. But they made the cardinal sin of stalling the boat in the start zone, and when it's really, really light you just have to keep moving as boat speed is key. We saw them stalling the boat and we just sheeted on and got away."
Masirah went into the lead to win the final race and clinch victory here in Muscat. "It's everything we worked for and hoped for! But you can't underestimate the guys that turned up for the Asian series at all. We've seen the fleet get stronger and stronger and every event and push us harder and harder in every race."
It was a superb end to a fantastic inaugural Extreme Sailing Series Asia. Only in a few months time, the Extreme Sailing Series European circuit will be starting - we can't wait!
Results: Extreme Sailing Series Asia : Muscat
1st Oman Sail Masirah, 103 points
2nd The Wave, Muscat, 101 points
3rd China Team, 91 points
4th BT, 84 points
5th Red Bull Extreme Sailing, 71 points
6th Rumbo Almeria, 70 points