Oman Air seek momentum at Madeira

MUSCAT: The crew of Oman Air are hoping the next round in Madeira will give their campaign momentum to win the globe-straddling Extreme Sailing Series.
After two Acts in the eight-event season, the experienced Oman Air team are in a perfectly respectable third place overall. Now they hope the light breezes at the last Far East regatta in Qingdao, China, will be replaced by strong winds at this week’s contest off the mid-Atlantic Madeira Islands to propel them up the leaderboard.
“Every single team on the Extreme Sailing Series tour would love it if it was a breezy week, rather than what we had in China,” said Oman Air’s tactician Pete Greenhalgh, soon after arriving in Funchal, one of Europe’s most western outposts.
“The forecast for the regatta is promising and there is plenty of breeze at the moment, but I remember last year it was like this and ended up very light, so who knows,” he added.
Aside from the frustration of light airs sailing on usually high-performance, high-speed foiling catamarans, the team did not live up to their own high performance expectations in Qingdao, said the British Extreme Sailing veteran. In addition, he and skipper Phil Robertson were both unwell during the event.
“China was disappointing for us, a lot of it due to illness with Phil and myself not being on good form,” said Greenhalgh. “It had such a big effect on our decision making, and we have just been recapping on that now with a view on how we are going to deliver a better performance.”
“Some of the mistakes we made were so fundamental in China that if we can just square those, get rid of some of those basic errors, then our performance will be significantly better,” he said.
And Greenhalgh added: “We would like to come away with a win here, that’s the goal. It’s nothing particularly special, it’s just doing the basic stuff well. We would love it if there was wind.”
A final day comeback saw the Oman Air team claw their way back up the ranking to finish the Qingdao regatta third overall, matching the result they achieved at the opening Act in Muscat, Oman.
Overall to date the team is just a point behind arch-rivals the Danish SAP Extreme Sailing Team, and only three points off the top spot, currently occupied by Alinghi, the Swiss reigning champions.
In Madeira, Greenhalgh and Robertson will again team up with experienced Omani bowman Nasser al Mashari and Oman Air regulars James Wierzbowski and Ed Smyth.
As with the whole crew, Al Mashari is keen that the event should act as a springboard for the rest of the season.
“We’d like to build some big momentum from this event here in Madeira and then carry it on through the European events,” he said.
“The performance and the skills are all here on the boat, we just have to improve on what happened in China, move up the leaderboard and put pressure on the other teams around us.”
Following Madeira, the high-octane Extreme Sailing Series moves on to Barcelona in July and then Hamburg, Germany, and Cardiff, UK, in August, concluding the tour in San Diego, USA and Los Cabos, Mexico, at the end of the year.