Oman Sail teams dominate podium in Muscat

Muscat: The Wave, Muscat’s trademark consistency proved difficult to nail on the second day of racing at the Extreme Sailing Series in Muscat but Oman Air claimed four podium places to affirm their growing status in the Extreme 40 fleet.

Ashore pre-racing, double Olympic Gold medallist Sarah Ayton took time out to chat to seven girls from the Oman Sail Women’s Sailing Programme, inspiring them to keep pushing boundaries and giving them an up close look at The Wave, Muscat Extreme 40.

A testing breeze that built to around 20 knots combined with a rocky 2-metre swell posed plenty of challenges for the fleet that today raced on a ‘stadium’ course in front of Omani spectators at the Almouj Golf Course in Muscat.

Leigh McMillan’s crew of Sarah Ayton, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh and Nasser al Mashari, who have won the Muscat event twice in the past two years, pulled out two cracking victories and another two impressive thirds then tailed off in the final two races to drop a place overall in the rankings to second.

It was frustrating to close the day in second place, skipper McMillan said but a different approach to their starts would make a difference to their results on day three.

“We were going well until the last two races then had a couple of shockers when we made really bad starts that cost us heavily,” he said.

“Before that we were leading overall, making good decisions mixed in with a couple of bad ones but generally racing really well. We are frustrated with the last two races — they have cost us a lot of points.

“Tomorrow I have to get some better starts to give us the best chance. Be more aggressive in the start area to get the starts we want.”

Oman Air skipper Stevie Morrison, lying in third place, was relishing the conditions in Muscat since the shifting breeze meant more manoeuvres and for a crew competing in their first Extreme season, that was good for their development, he said.

“We are seeing some really nice wind here in Muscat and perfect sailing conditions,” he said.

“Occasionally it was shifty which meant more tacks and gybes but that is good because it gives us a chance to get better at our tacking and gybing so we can race our opposition a bit more.”

As Britain’s leading 49er sailor with two Olympic campaigns under his belt, Morrison was always going to be quick out of the blocks and his talented young crew of Nic Asher, Ed Powys, Ted Hackney and Ali Al Balushi have forged some strong bonds which they hope will fast track their progress in 2015.

“We had a good day and are happy with our performances but we have to make sure we are more consistent so the things we are learning, we are able to repeat and repeat,” said Morrison.

“If we can do that, we should be able to improve and become stronger.”

Oman Air’s bowman Ali al Balushi is making his debut on the Extreme Sailing Series in 2015 and will get the chance on Friday, the first day of the weekend in Oman, to perform in front of his friends and family who are all coming down to the village to cheer on the Omani sailors.

“The plan on Oman Air for tomorrow is to be all over it because we are performing in front of the Omani public and it will be very exciting. “We had a very good day today and are looking forward to getting a good result tomorrow.”


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