The Oman Air crew ended a tricky first day in San Diego content with a consistent performance in the penultimate Act of the 2017 Extreme Sailing Series.
Light winds were a challenge for all eight of the international crews, with three failing to finish the last of the day’s six races as the breeze dropped out completely.
Oman Air’s team of skipper Phil Robertson, Pete Greenhalgh, Nasser Al Mashari, James Wierzbowski and Ed Smyth finished strongly with two podium places to sit in fourth place on the leaderboard, snapping at the heels of rivals and overall series leaders SAP Extreme Sailing Team.
“We had a reasonably solid day, we just chipped away, though we didn’t convert a couple of races into a first or second which we would have liked to have done,” said Smyth, headsail trimmer on the foiling GC32 catamaran.
“It’s a tricky little race course with lots of tactical options to consider with the current running down the course and changing direction towards the end of the day. It wasn’t always straightforward sailing – there’s a lot to look out for,” he added.
Bowman Al Mashari agreed: “Our strategy is to be tidy and consistent and see how it goes over the next few days. We want to keep on stacking up the points and get near the top of the table.
“It would be good to win in San Diego, but we are also looking ahead to the season finale in Mexico next month and the chance to win the 2017 title overall.”
A third place podium finish in Cardiff last time out had put Oman Air second on the overall season standings heading into San Diego just two points behind SAP, the winners in the Welsh capital, and three points clear of defending 2016 champions Alinghi in third place.
However, the season-long three-way battle between Oman Air, SAP and Alinghi has been disrupted in San Diego with the arrival of four-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie as skipper and helm on Land Rover BAR Academy. Led by Ainslie, the young guns took two wins and two second places to sit second in the table.
The first day though belonged to Swiss team Alinghi, who mastered the difficult conditions and lead by four points.
With better breeze expected over the next three days at the spectacular southern Californian venue, all the crews know there is everything still to play for.
The Extreme Sailing Series programme also included the inaugural Extreme San Diego Foil Kiteboarding Invitational, featuring some of the sport’s hottest talent battling for glory.
Among the impressive line-up of 15 international kiteboarders are several who will be heading to the Oman Sail organised Formula Kite World Championships in Muscat in November, including the UK’s Oli Bridge, Germany’s Florian Gruber, and Julien Kerneur and Axel Mazella of France.
Slovenia’s Toni Vodisek was leading at the end of day one.