Team Oman Air lead the fleet at GC32 World Championships in Portugal

The GC32 World Championships 2019. Lagos. Portugal.
Credit:Lloyd Images

Team Oman Air has made a strong and determined start to their bid to win the GC32 World Championship which got underway in Portugal on Thursday. Racing against some of the world’s best sailors, the crew of the high-speed foiling catamaran took a race win and two other podium finishes to end the first day of the world championship title fight tied in first place.

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The Oman Air crew face an extraordinary array of yacht racing talent among the 10-strong international fleet assembled in Lagos, southern Portugal. It includes America’s Cup winner Glenn Ashby, racing with the defending 2018 GC32 World Championship winning crew on Team Tilt, Volvo Ocean Race winner Franck Cammas, skippering the 2018 GC32 Tour champion Norauto crew, and four-time Olympic gold medal winner Sir Ben Ainslie who leads the INEOS Rebels UK team.

However, it was their old rivals on Alinghi who provided the sternest test, the Swiss team winning three of the day’s five races to go level with Oman Air at the top of the leaderboard with 18 points.

And just a point behind them INEOS and the French Norauto team are also tied, setting up what looks set to be a close contest over the next three days.

“We did a reasonable job but it didn’t feel like a great day as we left a lot of points on the table, but if you come back in and you are leading, it can’t be that bad,” said Team Oman Air’s project manager and mainsail trimmer Pete Greenhalgh.

“It’s a very competitive fleet and every little mistake costs you a place or two – it is one of the most competitive fleets we have seen, but it was always going to be the case at a world championships as there are some really solid teams here.

“We should have been a few points clear but the boat is going well, the team is sailing well and we have all we need to do the job, and I am confident we can.”

The Oman Air team – which is also supported by EFG Private Bank Monaco – arrived in Portugal on a high, having emerged as worthy winners at the GC32 Villasimius Cup in Sardinia last month, the opening event of the season.

“It is great to have got off to a strong start here in Portugal, and if we can keep on sailing well, we can perhaps earn back-to-back wins,” said Al Mashari, who races alongside Greenhalgh, New Zealand helmsman and skipper Adam Minoprio, Stewart Dodson and Adam Piggott.

“It is great to be racing against so many incredible sailors and the next few days are going to be a real challenge, but one we believe we can meet.”