The crowds in Oman gathered on the beach at Almouj to spur The Wave, Muscat on to their best performance of the year so far and inspire Oman Air to their first outright win in the 2015 Extreme Sailing Series Muscat.
Leigh McMillan’s crew on The Wave, Muscat enjoyed a stunning day on the water, dominating the racing with seven podium places in eight races, including three emphatic wins despite a tricky breeze that became increasingly patchy as the day went on.
They returned to the top of the Muscat leaderboard, with a seven point advantage over second placed SAP Extreme Sailing Team and will be hoping for the same returns on the final day to make sure of retaining their Muscat crown.
It was a change in the race course that made the difference, McMillan said, and no let-up in the intensity and precision among his ‘fantastic’ crew Sarah Ayton, Nasser Al Mashari, Ed Smyth and Pete Greenhalgh.
The reaching starts suited us – it was a change from the upwind starts of the last few days and that worked well for us, he said.
So we were solid and there were no mishaps and that helped us. We worked well together and made some good decisions to get round the course. It was a great performance by everyone on the boat. I have the best team around me – if we are not winning it is definitely my fault. They are fantastic.
But McMillan was wary about making any boasts over retaining the title he has won for the past two years. With a double points race to bring the curtain down on the event, it remains wide open, he said.
Nasser Al Mashari added: ‘It feels different sailing in home waters. We were more focussed today so we are happy to climb on top of the leaderboard and are looking forward to the final day. We hope the wind is stronger so we can repeat what we did today.
Confidence was also high on Oman Air even though they dropped a place in the rankings, due to a couple of overenthusiastic starts. With just 16 points separating the top four boats and one more day’s racing remaining, there was everything to play for said skipper Stevie Morrison.
‘We continue on our learning curve but I reckon we had a good handle on the starts today though were perhaps a little bit too punchy with a couple of them, he said.
‘Then we had a tricky middle part of the day but it reflected well on the guys that they didn’t get cross or grumpy and we finished the day strong.
Morrison, the British Olympic 49er campaigner, is paying his first visit to Oman and is convinced that the enthusiastic crowds on the beach are getting the best out of him and his crew especially Ali Al Balushi.
Ali is a big fit strong guy and is really enjoying racing in front of his family and friends – he has a big smile on his face and is making things happen for us. We are all enjoying sailing in front of the Omani crowds. We all want to make Oman proud,’ he said.
Earlier in the day, both McMillan and Morrison were involved in a different type of racing when Oman Sail staged a special event to pit the talents of eight Extreme 40 skippers against those of a group of young Omani sailors, all members of the Omani national youth squad, in a fleet of Optimists, the dinghy that has launched dozens of professional sailing careers.
The racing was followed by a ‘Chat with Champions’ featuring Nasser Al Mashari, Ali Al Balushi, Sarah Ayton and Stevie Morrison and a presentation of caps to eight Youth Sailors, in recognition of their achievements in 2014-15.
The final day’s racing starts at 14.30 local time and the free to enter public Race Village will again be open with attractions for all the family. The Extreme 40 fleet will race in the circuit’s action packed ‘stadium’ from the Almouj Golf Club offering outstanding views of the racecourse from the Race Village.
by Oman Sail