Muscat: Team Oman Air got their first ever GC32 Racing Tour season off to the best possible start with victory at the opening event of 2019, the GC32 Villasimius Cup in Sardinia.
Racing in sometimes tricky and difficult conditions the Oman Air crew showed their mettle in a highly competitive 10-strong fleet of high-speed foiling catamarans to claim the first round by a clear nine points in front of the pursuing pack.
The win marked a successful debut for the new-look Oman Air crew, which has seen established team members Pete Greenhalgh, Nasser al Mashari and Stewart Dodson joined by the highly-rated New Zealand helmsman Adam Minoprio as skipper and the experienced British sailor Adam Piggott.
“We are a new team and trying hard, and we have been able to find some areas that are definite strengths,” said Greenhalgh, Oman Air’s project manager, mainsail trimmer and tactician. “We had a great team on paper and it all came good for us. “We are really good downwind and our manoeuvres have also been good, and we have been competitive upwind as well.
“It’s also been working really well between Adam Minoprio and I, calling the tactics and getting the boat going in the right direction, so we are really pleased that that’s worked out as well as it has – we are just nicely in synch which is how it should be.”
After sharing the early lead with defending GC32 champions Norauto, led by French ace Franck Cammas, the determined Oman Air team built the foundations for their ultimate success with a hat-trick of race victories on the third of four days of racing.
Going into Sunday’s final races the crew held an eight-point advantage, a lead they were able to maintain despite persistent pressure from the chasing pack, notably Ernesto Bertarelli’s Swiss team on Alinghi and multiple Olympic gold medal winner Ben Ainslie’s crew on INEOS Rebels UK, who took second and third places respectively on the overall podium. Victory was sealed with a second place in the 16th and final race of the regatta.
“It has been solid, relentless rain for the last few days and we have had a lot of wind at times, with it being quite shifty – difficult conditions but we somehow managed to get the racing in,” said Greenhalgh of the unseasonal conditions. “We struggled in a couple of races today and slipped back a little, but we held on for a really good result and we are of course happy with that.”
Also delighted was Al Mashari, a regular with the Oman Sail organised team. He said: “It has been good to have done so well at the start of our GC32 Racing Tour campaign. The other teams are very competitive and we know they will come back strongly throughout the season. “There is a long way to go, but we are a good team and we will be trying our hardest to get a good result at every event.”
Team Oman Air will be back in action at the end of June with the second event on the GC32 Racing Tour schedule in Lagos, southern Portugal, from June 26th-30th. –ONA