Dramatic come-from-behind victory for The Wave, Muscat
Fireworks, standing ovations and celebrations all round: the home team, The Wave, Muscat, pulled off a stunning come-from-behind victory, achieving the biggest single day turn-around in the event’s history, to win the Extreme Sailing Series Muscat by a slender six points.
Leigh McMillan and his crew had a dire day yesterday, struggling in ultra-light conditions while their rivals on Red Bull Sailing Team sailed impeccably. As a result, going into racing today The Wave, Muscat trailed the Austrian team led by double Tornado Olympic Gold medallist Roman Hagara, by 15 points. But in today’s seven races, culminating in the usual double points scoring finale, the Omani team turned the tables, in conditions that may not have resulted in high speed sailing, but tense nonetheless.
“We knew that 15 points was a big ask,” recounted a jubilant McMillan afterwards. “We didn’t think it was out of the question though, so we focussed on sailing as best we could and seeing how much we could eat into Red Bull’s lead. We thought if we could get within 5-7 points of them going into the double pointer, at least we’d have a shot at it. But it went a bit better than that...”
The Wave, Muscat strode way with four wins and two thirds in today’s first six races putting the Omani team ahead by just two points going into the decider.
In the double points finale, after the start Red Bull Sailing Team got sandwiched between The Wave, Muscat and Alinghi and had to tack away to the right. Here she found slightly stronger wind and edged into the lead. But at the weather mark she had to perform a bigger turn and, in the light conditions, she stalled, allowing The Wave, Muscat to sail right around her. This proved the decisive moment and despite Red Bull looking dangerous as she split tacks with The Wave up the second beat, the Omani team came home fourth to Red Bull’s sixth, finishing on 232 points overall to the Austrian’s 226.
Of his nerves going into the dramatic decider, McMillan said. “The light wind adds an element of stress, because one little mistake and you get crucified. But all we had to do was beat Roman [Hagara] in that race.”
Victory for The Wave, Muscat makes amends for her result here in 2012 when she lost by the narrowest of margins to her then team mate, Oman Air. “Top of the agenda this year was to win on home turf for The Wave,” McMillan continued. “We are extremely happy for them and thankful for their support. It is a great result and we’re very happy to have achieved it.”
McMillan added he was proud of his crew, which, in addition to old hands Pete Greenhalgh and Ed Smyth, this season includes two Omanis, bowman Hashim Al Rashdi and 5th man Musab Al Hadi. “It is good to be able to react to difficult days and turn it around when things don’t seem to be going your way. That is very pleasing and shows the strength within the team - all of the guys I’m sailing with - that we can do it.”
Red Bull Sailing Team were the class act for the majority of this week, particularly the light wind stadium racing. But it was not to be for the double Olympic gold medal-winning skipper Roman Hagara as his pre-race concerns about falling at the final hurdle came to fruition. “In that last race we were good off of the start line, matching them, but in the end we were not fast enough and could not hold them off. There was no way to catch up and the courses are so short. I just hope we can do better in Singapore,” said Hagara.
Ernesto Bertarelli and Alinghi, with Morgan Larson calling tactics this season, got off to a solid start to their 2013 Extreme Sailing Series campaign ending the regatta third, their first podium position since 2011. Trimmer Pierre-Yves Jorand said: “It was a great race, we have a great team and the addition of Morgan Larson is just huge for us and we are very, very happy with our third place. Obviously Ernesto, Yves, Nils and I are used to sailing together, we understand each other very well in these light conditions. Morgan made some great calls on the tactics as well as looking at the pulse and looking at the pressure. We didn’t start off too well today but we did it very nicely in the end, we are really happy!”
Rob Greenhalgh's crew on Team Duqm Oman ended their racing in Muscat on a high, winning the double points scoring final race.
"There were lots of ups and downs today," said Greenhalgh. "We had a bit of breeze to start with – it wasn’t desperate, desperate, but it was still pretty light. Our aim today was to try to win a race and we won two, which we were quite pleased about and we won the double pointer at the end, but then we had some shockers, a couple of big mistakes, a couple of lasts which are never good. We held it together and our day was probably better than average. It was certainly a good way to finish with us winning the final race and The Wave winning overall."
Greenhalgh said that he was satisfied with his team's fourth place considering their lack of preparation. "I think we all would have taken fourth before the event. We were fourth pretty much all the way through. We have been battling. We have had some speed issues through being new in the boat and not being onto the steering enough and a few set-up issues, so just lots to learn. We can certainly do a lot better. But fingers crossed we get to go to the next event where for sure there would be a chance for the podium."
DUQM Oman agreed to sponsor this team for one regatta and at present there is no news about their continuing. But if they do, a fourth placed finish for a team with such little training before its first regatta bodes well.
The other newbie crews on Realteam, GAC Pindar and Team Korea each has showed moments of brilliance, a sign of things to come this year and a testament to how strong the fleet is.
The next stop is Singapore, where the fleet will race within the world famous Marina Bay Reservoir, over 11-14 April with a new invitational team, Team Aberdeen Singapore.
1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Musab Al Hadi, Hashim Al Rashdi 232 points.
2nd Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Pierre Le Clainche, Graeme Spence 226 points.
3rd Alinghi (SUI) Ernesto Bertarelli, Morgan Larson, Pierre Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 218 points.
4th Team Duqm Oman (OMA) Robert Greenhalgh, Bleddyn Mon, Will Howden, Andrew Walsh, Nasser Al Mashari 185 points.
5th Team Korea (KOR) Peter Burling, Blair Tuke, Mark Bulkeley, Sungwok Kim, Matt Cornwell 173 points.
6th GAC Pindar (NZL) Will Tiller, Brad Farrand, Stewart Dodson, Harry Thurston, Shaun Mason 164 points.
7th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Kostner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Nicolai Sehested 153 points.
8th Realteam (SUI) Jerome Clerc, Bryan Mettraux, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Cédric Schmidt, Thierry Wasem 147 points.