Oman Sail’s new GC32 “Sultanate of Oman”, supported by the Ministry of Tourism of Oman and EFG Bank Monaco, had a magnificent first day of racing in Austria at the inaugural Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour.
With just four days of training, Leigh McMillan’s crew took to the waters of Lake Traunsee in the Austrian Alps thinking it might take a few races to tune their brand new GC32 and find their feet.
But after four races, in winds that varied from zero to light and shifty, “Sultanate of Oman” was tied on points with Swiss team Alinghi at the top of the leaderboard having posted four podium places, including an outright win in Race 3.
The difficult conditions actually played to their advantage, said McMillan who was feeling very upbeat after their first day’s racing, although he underlined that the learning curve is steep for the team.
“It has been a great first day – we never expected to finish so high in the ranking on day one,” he said.
“There were a lot of shifts so we saw some pretty wacky racing but in a way that was to our advantage because it wasn’t so much about the foiling and the manoeuvres – we just kept on pushing to try to find the next bit of breeze.”
Having the foiling expertise of experienced America’s Cup (AC) sailors Glenn Ashby and Alister Richardson helped with fast tracking their levels of performance, McMillan added.
“We are getting a lot of input from Glenn and Alister – they are very comfortable with trying things that they have done on the AC programmes that we might not have been thinking about just yet. They are both extremely proactive, talented sailors so having them with us has been an absolute pleasure.”
Racing in the new class despite the challenging conditions had proved demanding but fun, said Ashby, who has taken time out of his America’s Cup commitments to Emirates Team New Zealand to join “Sultanate of Oman” for this event.
“Obviously we have never sailed together as a crew before so we were making things up a bit as we went along and learning very quickly,” he said.
“But all in all, I think we sailed the boat well considering it was our first day of racing. It was very shifty, with very puffy conditions on the lake but the sun was out and there was some fantastic sailing at times – it was great!”
The five-strong crew was carefully put together by Oman Sail’s champion skipper McMillan, Richardson and Ashby brought the foiling skills while Pete Greenhalgh and Oman’s Nasser Al Mashari gave their skipper the tried and trusted professional crew work that has earned them two Extreme 40 world championship titles.
“It was a very new experience for the team today – but really, really fun and exciting,” said a delighted Al Mashari.
“It was really interesting to sail with Glenn and Alister onboard, they have huge experience and are really good to learn from. We still need to work a lot on our boat handling as we are very new to this event, but so far so good,” he said.
The Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour continues tomorrow through to Sunday with five hours of action each day, starting at 11.00am CET. Live coverage at www.gc32racing.com