The opening day of racing in Muscat required a touch of finesse by the sailors onboard the six Extreme 40s taking part in the final round of the Extreme Sailing Series Asia as they battled with light winds all afternoon.
Renowned light-air specialists Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher, onboard Red Bull Extreme Sailing, finished the first day as top boat - with a lead of seven points over China Team - who are keeping a tight hold on their current overall 2nd placed position - and The Wave, Muscat.
Double Olympic Gold Medallist, Roman Hagara (AUT) was pleased with his team's performance on the opening day. "A good beginning. The difference today was we had really good starts, and once you are in the front with these courses in the light wind it is easy to stay in the front." His tactician, Hans Peter Steinacher, agreed, "After a week of training we've had here in Oman it feels good on the boat. We have more time to look for the wind as our manoeuvres become more natural. It gets better and better. The secret in these light airs? Go as fast a possible over the line, it doesn't matter in which position - that's the clue!"
With the wind reaching a maximum of 9 knots, it was a slow afternoon for the Extreme 40s, requiring more brain than brawn to get round the four courses. With the tougher 'reaching' starts, when the wind hits the start line from the side, rather than the more usual head on or from behind, some of the teams struggled to adjust and found themselves blocked and unable to get over the line cleanly. Current overall leaders of the Asian circuit, Oman Sail's Masirah, was one such team as skipper Pete Cumming explained. "It was tricky today, definitely not the 10-15 knots I predicted the fleet would get yeterday. The wind just died away and it was really hard racing. The sea was quite sloppy as we had a good wind this morning and the courses were tough so the fleet got spread out and there aren't many over-taking lanes.
"We couldn't get off the start line cleanly today, a lot of reaching starts and we should be better at them. We've done enough of them in training so it shouldn't be an excuse. Tomorrow is another day, and we'll be looking for less sixth places and more firsts!"
Watching the racing at The Wave, Muscat, was a delegation of statesmen from the Omani and Singaporean governments, to see the naming of The Jewel of Muscat, a traditionally built sailing vessel, using techniques and skills over 2,000 years old. It was an extraordinary sight as The Jewel of Muscat sailed through the fleet of state-of-the art Extreme 40s. Pete Cumming, skipper of Masirah commented, "There was 2,000 years of sailing history out there today. For the Oman Sail project we had every extreme - every arm of the project designed to reignite the Sultanate's sailing heritage. There was the Jewel of Muscat, the historical part, and then you have the 2010 version of the Jewel of Muscat with the Extreme 40!"
Red Bull Extreme Sailing's two firsts and two seconds put them in first place, seven points ahead of China Team and The Wave, Muscat. "It was a little frustrating as we didn't start well today and our position at the finish didn't always relate to our position at the start," commented The Wave, Muscat Skipper Paul Campbell-James. "We'll be looking for a bit of a better day with our starts tomorrow and I think we will be pushing Red Bull Extreme Sailing for the lead. They had a great day today."
Hugh Styles, the helmsmen onboard China Team also found the going hard. "It was tough today. Everything was about being clean off the line and we did a pretty good job in the firt two races and we are pleased with how we were sailing the boat today. We only had yesterday's day of practice so it has come together pretty nicely.
"It's such a unique location here sailing in the mouth of a harbour and having all the dignatries watching it does give a bit of added pressure to it. You aren't just sailing in front of a crowd of, you are sailing in front of government officials - you have to perform well!"
The second day of racing will begin at 2pm tomorrow, Tuesday 2 February.
Results after day 1 of the Extreme Sailing Series Asia:
Red Bull Extreme Sailing - 22 points
CHINA TEAM - 15 points
The Wave, Muscat - 15 points
Rumbo Almeria - 12 points
Masirah - 11 points
BT - 9 points