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Oman Sail holds top spots at Extreme Sailing Series with two regattas to go
Nice, the penultimate Act in the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series, sees Oman Sail’s two teams topping the overall leaderboard with The Wave, Muscat seven points clear of second placed Oman Air, in turn one point ahead of Red Bull Sailing Team.
The Wave, Muscat started training on Saturday in the glamorous Cote d’Azur venue and skipper Leigh McMillan says it is vital they maintain a consistent performance when racing starts on Thursday.
“We are getting to the real crunch of the season, so we are trying to bring on our best performance and secure it as best we can going into the last event,” commented McMillan. “Our objective really is to finish on the podium for the next two events, then it is secure. So we need to keep sailing aggressively and keep pushing hard to make sure that we do get those podiums we need.”
Joining The Wave, Muscat after making her Extreme Sailing Series debut with Team Cardiff in the last Act, is recently crowned Olympic 470 silver medallist Hannah Mills. She is taking the 5th person slot on board in place of Bleddyn Mon: “I’m really excited. It is a great opportunity for me sailing with these boys to learn about multihull sailing and about team work,” she said.
The weather forecast for later this week is changing by the day, but has recently improved with 15-20 knots predicted. Oman Air skipper, American Morgan Larson, says that he prefers this, since they changed fifth man from Max Bulger to marginally heavier New Zealand Laser sailor Andy Moloney. “I wouldn’t say we have an advantage, but it is a little better suited for us to have a little more wind. We started out the season with a lighter 5th and we did pretty well in light winds and we made that change expecting some of the windier venues. We knew Nice would be a risk...”
But Leigh McMillan warns that it is always hard to predict the weather on the Cote d’Azur. “Nice can be quite different to what’s happening just a few miles offshore as well. It would be good to open the boats up a bit and mix it up.”
To date Oman Sail boats have won every Act of this year’s Extreme Sailing Series, a record the teams would like to continue. Oman Air is perhaps on a roll having won in Cardiff, their second victory this year after Muscat at the beginning of the season, but they are going to have their work cut out if they are to eat into The Wave, Muscat’s lead.
Larson will also have to keep an eye on Austrian double Tornado Olympic gold medallist Roman Hagara and his Red Bull Extreme Sailing team just one point behind them. “We just have to keep sailing the boat well and keep improving our own team work,” says Larson. “Red Bull have years of experience and I was surprised to hear that they have never won an Act. They are always the toughest guys going into the last day.”
For both the Omani Extreme 40 crewmen - Hashim Al Rashdi on The Wave, Muscat and Nasser Al Mashari on Oman Air – it is the second time they have visited Nice. Al Mashari competed last year while Al Rashdi was present in a training capacity.
“Nice is a really lovely place,” says Al Rashdi. “There’s sunshine, it’s a really beautiful city, friendly people, the weather – I like it, it feels like home. Hopefully this year we will get some more wind. We are looking forward to doing well in this event. We have been in Nice for four days and have been training every day, twice a day, so we are looking forward to racing.”
For Oman Air’s Nasser Al Mashari, France is very much more familiar, not only from racing here last year but because he has previously competed in the month-long Tour de France a la Voile around the French coastline.
“Nice is a marvellous place,” he says. “It’s great for the tourists. There are many things to see here and very close to us there is a lovely mountain. We climbed it last year and it is a great view. It is a pretty good place to sail. Today is a bit cloudy, but it’s going to get a bit windier - last year it was very light. We hope to do the same as Cardiff and win the regatta!”
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