The Oman Air team climbed the leaderboard as they reached the half-way point in a closely fought Extreme Sailing Series Act in San Diego.
Starting the second day in fourth place, the Phil Robertson skippered crew of Pete Greenhalgh, Nasser Al Mashari, James Wierzbowski and Ed Smyth succeeded in overhauling four-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie at the helm of Land Rover BAR Academy to grab third spot.
Once again the Oman Air team put together a string of podium finishes in the six races run on Friday, benefitting from a stronger breeze that saw the fleet of foiling GC32 catamarans hitting speeds of up to 30 knots.
“The racing is fantastic and that’s why everybody loves to sail these boats,” said Greenhalgh, Oman Air’s veteran mainsail trimmer and tactician.
Reflecting on a challenging day on the water he added: “We are getting maybe five to eight big shifts in the wind on each beat, which is massive, and there are big gusts and big lulls, so it is very, very changeable.
“With that comes a lot of changing gears with the boat handling and the trimming, and we are maybe missing just a bit of crispness in making those changes and a bit of boat speed.”
Sitting in third place with 109 points, Greenhalgh acknowledged there was work to be done to close down on San Diego leaders Alinghi and the second placed SAP Extreme Sailing Team, on 126 and 125 points respectively.
“It is very competitive out there, but hopefully we can turn it on. We have got a plan and there will be some tweaks for tomorrow and the final day so we can put together the whole package,” he said.
With two more days of racing at the southern Californian venue, Robertson and the Oman Air crew will look to close the gap on overall season leaders SAP, who started the event just two points ahead.
At the same time they will be keeping a close eye on defending Extreme Sailing Series champions Alinghi, who started in San Diego three points behind in the overall standings.
Oman Air bowman Al Mashari said: “We know we have a lot to do, but we need to keep Alinghi behind us in the overall standings, and not let SAP get too far in front. If we can do that we will go to the final event in Mexico next month, which is double points scoring, knowing that we can still take the title.”
Racing continues on Saturday and Sunday in San Diego.