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Rolex Fastnet Race – Oman Sail offshore and inshore teams aim high
Oman Sail team - Rolex Fastnet RaceOman Sail

Rolex Fastnet Race – Oman Sail offshore and inshore teams aim high

Rolex Fastnet Race 2015 – While Oman Sail’s offshore crew on the MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail make slow progress to Plymouth, their inshore Extreme 40 teams on The Wave, Muscat and Oman Air are gearing up for the sixth round of the 2015 Extreme Sailing Series in St Petersburg, Russia where conditions are no less testing.

A strong current on the River Neva when combined with light winds poses plenty of tactical problems for even the most experienced crews and The Wave, Muscat skipper Leigh McMillan says they will need to be on their toes at all times, especially at the starts.

“We came second last year so plan to go one better this year and win it,” said McMillan who races with an unchanged crew of Pete Greenhalgh, Sarah Ayton, Nasser Al Mashari and Ed Smyth.

“But it is the trickiest venue of all of them because of the strong current with the light winds so we have to stay on our toes.

“The key to winning here is to make a good start. With the way the current is, it is vitally important to get out in front early and make the best of the opportunities when they arise.

“Last year we had races being abandoned at the windward mark and people being timed out so we have to be ready for anything and keep going. St Petersburg is an amazing city and this venue is spectacular so hopefully we will have some wind.”

After winning the last two Extreme events in Cardiff and Hamburg, McMillan feels that The Wave, Muscat is on a roll but the pressure is now on to build on their three point lead in the remaining three events of 2015, here in Russia, Istanbul and Sydney.

“We have been going well for the last couple of events so our plan is to keep doing the same but work on improving our performances and results so we can get out further in front on the overall leaderboard because there are only two events left after this one.”

For the crew on Oman Air, the tricky River Neva race course is a brand new test and first impressions suggest they will need a fair amount of patience.

“It’s a beautiful city and the backdrop here is pretty impressive but as far as the race course is concerned, it is a narrow river with a lot of current so it will require a lot of patience,’ said Stevie Morrison.

“We keep chipping away and are still confident of getting a good result. Second to fifth on the leaderboard is very tight and we are in that group. We have not had the podium position we have wanted yet but we are getting to the end of the season and we feel that all the components are in place.”

Rolex Fastnet Race – Oman Sail offshore and inshore teams aim high

Oman Sail team – Rolex Fastnet RaceOman Sail

Morrison also races with an unchanged crew of Ed Powys, Nic Asher, Ted Hackney and Ali Al Balushi, who has been sizing up the venue since he arrived in Russia.

“It’s a nice place but a bit cold,” said the Omani bowman.

“It’s a tight area to sail but that is good. And we hope we will be top three on this event because the team is ready for it. The team is strong.”

A top three place is in sight for Oman Sail’s flagship MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail after they rounded the iconic Fastnet Rock among the leaders of the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race.

Rounding the rock went well, said Damian Foxall, one of seven crew on the high speed trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet but the approach had posed some classic racing dilemmas.

“We made a strategic error on the way out – once we’d passed the Scillies – we got quite a bit of lift and we went for a short term gain and ultimately we sailed ourselves off into a bit of a corner which cost us 15 miles.

“It was pretty stupid because we were ahead of Prince de Bretagne and Phaedo and went from leading them out towards the northwest to digging ourselves into a hole in the East, which has had long-term ramifications.

“Right now we are just playing the shifts and I guess it will be a bit of a restart when the wind fills in from the southwest later today.”

Three of Gavignet’s crew had prepared for the Fastnet by competing at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week in the Laser SB20 class, producing a set of impressive results in a hotly contested fleet.

Fahad Al Hasni’s Oman Sail one finished just outside the top 10 from a field of more than 30 boats while Yasir Al Rahbi racing with Sami Al Shukaili were among the top 20.

Ibtisam Al Salmi and her Oman Sail crew also joined in with the best J80 sailors at Cowes Week to post a creditable 12th place in the J80 class achieving two top ten places in the five races of the week to bring the women’s summer 2015 campaign in Europe to a close.

In St Petersburg, Extreme 40 racing takes place over four days from the 20-23 August and can be followed on the Extreme Sailing Series website with live video, live streaming of the SAP analytics and dynamic leaderboards.

by Oman Sail

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