Oman Air’s fighting spirit halts Alinghi juggernaut

Mexico: The Oman Air team overcame the challenges of a tricky day on the water to reach the half-way point of the Extreme Sailing Series finale in Mexico in contention for the title and ahead of arch-rivals and overall season leaders SAP Extreme Sailing Team.
A win in the final race saw the Oman Air crew finish the day on a high note. However, Phil Robertson, Pete Greenhalgh, Nasser al Mashari, Ed Smyth and James Wierzbowski can also take credit for derailing the progress of defending champions Alinghi who won all five of the other races.
After continuing their blistering performance of the first day with a second place finish in the first of day two, Oman Air had to surrender their overnight lead to the almost all-conquering Alinghi, but not without a fight.
“It was a little bit of a tough day today. We didn’t get off the line in positions that gave us too many options, so we were a little bit dictated to,” said New Zealand skipper and helm Robertson.
“It was nice to get in the way of Alinghi’s attempt at a whitewash. They were pretty slippery around the track, they raced extremely well, and good on them.”
On conditions that drew on all his skills as a World Match Racing Champion, Robertson added: “It was challenging out there with the breeze flicking both ways in the gusts, a bit patchier and more up and down in the pressure compared to the first day.
“Everyone’s in a good mood with a win at the end. We’ll be all set and ready for tomorrow, and it’s only the half-way point so there’s no stress — there are plenty of races to go and plenty of points.”
Bowman Al Mashari is also looking to the task ahead, saying: “It was good to finish the day with a win after a few difficult races. Alinghi showed how good they can be, but we were able to stay ahead of SAP and they are the team we need to beat.
“We have two more days here in Los Cabos to take the double points on offer and perhaps then have a chance at the title.”
Alinghi’s crew showed themselves to be masters of the tricky conditions, turning up their speed to post an extraordinary succession of five consecutive race victories.
After their impressive display aboard the foiling GC32 catamaran, Alinghi top the table on 131 points, with Oman Air second on 124 and SAP behind with 120.
Red Bull Sailing Team lead the chasing pack with 106 points, but are slipping out of contention for a podium place.
As predicted, the lighter breeze on the race course at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula saw the fleet moved further offshore in search of enough wind to race in. Racing continues until Sunday.