The Oman Air crew pulled out all the stops on the final day of the 2017 Extreme Sailing Series with back-to-back race wins in a dramatic conclusion to a closely fought season.
The team took to the water for the final races of the Act in Los Cabos, Mexico, focused on overhauling regatta leaders Alinghi.
With the last day seeing just three races due to a lack of wind, Oman Air halved the 12 point overnight deficit to the Swiss team with decisive wins in the first two, and went into the final double-points decider with a real chance of winning the Act and securing second place in the season overall.
After the lead changed hands several times in the course of the race, it came down to almost the final manoeuvre of the entire regatta. Agonizingly, the Oman Air crew of Phil Robertson, Nasser Al Mashari, Pete Greenhalgh, Ed Smyth and James Wierzbowski had to watch as Alinghi edged ahead round the last mark of the course to push them into second place.
“We started the day 12 points behind Alinghi and put ourselves in a position going into the last race exactly where we wanted to be after winning the first two races,” said Robertson, Oman Air’s skipper and helm.
“It was a massive effort and it proved that when we need to we can pull out all the stops. We came out on the right foot with a chance to win it in the final race, but Alinghi were a little too far up the leaderboard for us. So a day of drama, but a good day – not quite where we wanted to be but a strong finish is nice.
“It would have been a great outcome to have taken it, a real nail-biter, but Alinghi sailed very well to get to where they were in that race all things considered, and they’ve had a glamour regatta so congratulations to them for winning,” added the New Zealand world match-racing champion.
Alinghi’s victory in Mexico saw them finish the overall Extreme Sailing Series in second spot, with Oman Air just a point behind in third place. The 2017 title went to the Danish-flagged SAP Extreme Sailing Team who won four of the eight Acts in the course of the season, and had gone into the Mexican finale with a realistically unassailable lead.
Oman Air’s veteran bowman Al Mashari said: “We knew it was going to be hard to overtake SAP in Mexico, so our focus was on beating Alinghi and winning the regatta and then seeing what happened with the rest of the fleet.
“It was very close, and winning the two races here on the final day showed what we are able to do when the pressure is on. It has been a good season for us with many strong results to remember. Our congratulations go to SAP Extreme Sailing Team for their season victory.”
With the drama in Mexico concluded, Robertson was also able to reflect on his debut season with the experienced Oman Air team.
“It’s been a very good season overall. We dropped a couple of points at one or two regattas which we regret but apart from that we have sailed very, very well. The highlights of the season were winning back-to-back Acts in Barcelona and Hamburg, and finishing on the podium at all the others except for San Diego.
“With me coming in to helm it took a while for us all to learn each other’s styles, and the boys my style. This is a good place to be and we are learning more about ourselves and how we sail together as a team, it’s all positive.
“Next year we are going to be stronger for sure and we’ve got enough to win the season. We will be looking to get ahead of all the teams, and starting in Oman is definitely an event we would want to win, so we will be coming in to it ready to go. It’s going to be a good season and we are all eyes forward.”
Don’t miss the Team Oman Air season review here: https://www.facebook.com/OmanSail/videos/10155933101042328/