Oman Air show potential on opening day
After the opening day of the Extreme Sailing Series in Muscat, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, French favourites for the third consecutive year, are holding the lead, but despite posting three bullets, they are tied on points after six races with the newbie Americans on board Oman Air.
Coming with a giant sporting CV that includes three America’s Cup campaigns, six World Championship titles and three Olympic campaigns, Oman Air's new skipper American, Morgan Larson, is experiencing his first racing ever on the Extreme Sailing Series.
“I didn’t really know what to expect to be honest," said Larson, 40, from Oregon. "I know there are a lot of talented teams, but I think the format of the sailing suits my style.” Modest on the day but when pushed Larson nonetheless has an underlying confidence: “I believe we can win this, but we need podium positions at every event.” Also new to the Oman Air crew this year is Athens Olympic Tornado silver medallist Charlie Ogletree, also from the US.
The conditions allowed a gentle start to the racing here, with the breeze ranging from 6-10 knots throughout the afternoon. Leigh McMillan and his crew on The Wave, Muscat scored the first win of the 2012 season but soon after Pierre Pennec and the Groupe Edmond de Rothschild team took control to win the next two races.
Race 4 delivered the drama of the day when Oman Air's fifth crew member, Max Bulger, went over the side. “He somehow hung on to the rudder!" said Larson. " I have seen a lot of people fall overboard, but I have never seen anyone hang on the way he hung on - it was quite impressive.” Bulger was quickly retrieved, causing Oman Air to drop just one place. They subsequently managed to regain their lead to win the race.
Of their day, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild trimmer, Hervé Cunningham, said: “We’re pretty happy, we didn’t know where we were this morning in terms of performance of the boat and some crew changes so at the end of the day we are tied first with Oman Air so we’re pretty happy. Oman Air did a really, really good job. I know Morgan Larson and his crew and they are really good, so no surprises. We won the event last year and it’s always good to ‘mark’ your territory so to be competitive 100% on day one is good.”
GAC Pindar, skippered by British match racer Ian Williams, were the new kids on the block last year, but they are now contenders, ending the first day third on the leaderboard. Williams commented: “We really targeted trying to get the boat in the top three so it’s a great start and we’re in 3rd place not too far behind the leaders. The preparation this year has been much better, the boat is in better condition and the crew have been in training leading up to this so we’re feeling much more settled. The goal is to be inside the top five all the time and that’s what we’ve got to do going forward.”
The new team on the Extreme Sailing Series circuit, Team Trifork, had their taste of their first real Extreme 40 competition today and the Danish-led team loved it: “Difficult, lot of learning but lot of fun! We finished third in one of the races and we were in the fight all the time,” said co-skipper Jes Gram-Hansen. "The starting is the hardest point right as it’s quite different from the monohulls I have raced in my life.”
Tomorrow the eight Extreme 40s will race in stadium mode inside the breakwater, surrounded by Muscat's The Wave seaside residential development and home to Oman Sail. Racing can be watched live online from 1130 GMT for the next three days.
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Act 1, Muscat, Oman standings after Day 1
1st Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA) Pierre Pennec / Jean-Christophe Mourniac / Hervé Cunningham / Bernard Labro / Adeline Chatenet 36 points
2nd Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson / Will Howden / Charlie Ogletree, Nasser Al Mashari, Max Bulger 36 points
3rd GAC Pindar (GBR) Ian Williams / Mark Ivey / Mark Bulkeley, Adam Piggot / Andrew Walsh 34 points
4th The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Hashim Al Rashdi, Rachel Williamson 30 points
5th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Graeme Spence, Pierre Le Clainche 26 points
6th ZouLou (FRA) Loick Peyron, Philippe Mourniac, Jean-Sébastien Ponce, Bruno Jeanjean, Antoine Joubert 22 points
7th Alinghi (SUI), Ernesto Bertarelli, Tanguy Cariou, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey, Pierre-Yves Jorand 17 points
8th Team Trifork (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Kostner, Pete Cumming, Simon Hiscocks, Jonas Hviid 15 points