Thousands gathered on the beach on the first public day of the Muscat event of the Extreme Sailing Series Asia to see the six teams race in the biggest breeze so far - not only of the Asian series but the entire 2009 European series! With 25 knots of wind that accelerated the boats downwind at speeds of 30km per hour, this was white-knuckle racing for the sailors in fully testing conditions. Nose dives, rooster tails, close calls, penalties, breakages, fraught mark roundings... For the sailors it was physical and stressful, for the spectators it was pure entertainment drawing cheers as the six teams threw themselves around the short race track.
For the Omani public the two-day ‘Extreme Beach Party’ kicked off on Al-Hail beach to the west of the capital city with the Red Bull Street Style competition, five-a-side football tournament and the Arsenal soccer school open for business, alongside ‘try-sailing’ sessions. With local radio Hai FM keeping the crowds they had plenty to entertain them both on and off the water.
Back on the water, boat handling and precision gennaker hoists and drops proved crucial... The six boats raced with a reef and for the first two races without their massive gennakers, but the race committee finally gave the nod for the sails to be used in the remaining races.
Inevitably the pressure piled on and Red Bull Extreme Sailing, still leading overall, got caught out in race 5. Trying to hold on to their huge gennaker for as long as they dare as they approached the final downwind mark, the furl wasn’t slick enough, and the breeze caught in the sail enough to tip them over as they attempted to round the mark for the final sprint to the finish line. Skipper Roman Hagara, was taken to hospital to have stitches put in his hand. Game over, not only for the day’s racing but also as the team had to relinquish their overall lead to Thierry Barot’s China Team, helmed by Hugh Styles, on the penultimate day of the Muscat event – the final round in the Asian Extreme Sailing Series. Hugh: “We had a few little curve balls at the start of the day and we were last in the first race. But we just tried to keep clean and out of trouble, especially coming into the top mark. Tomorrow’s another day and we’re looking forward to doing better.”
Oman Sail’s Masirah had the best day on the water today – languishing in 4th place overall after yesterday’s match racing session – Pete Cumming’s team scored the most points to elevate Masirah to 3rd in the overall standings with 70 points, just behind their stablemate The Wave, Muscat now in 2nd place going into the final day of racing tomorrow. Bowman, Khamis Al Anbourri, “Today we had 25 knots – a really amazing day! Earlier in the day we were doing some practice match racing with Shirley and it just got windier so we put a reef in. We didn’t use gennakers in the first two races then we were allowed to use them. It was quite hard work and all the time concentrating to go faster. This is the windiest conditions I’ve raced in – we’ve been waiting for conditions like this in Oman to show the people it’s a really amazing sport, hard work but wonderful.”
Oman Sail Masirah have come to the final Asian event in Muscat holding the series lead and their first performance over the first three days was starting to look worrying but now they are back on form and there is no doubt the team are fully motivated to win on home soil.
BT and Rumbo Almeria may not have had the best day on the water but saved their best performance till the final race scoring a first and a second place.
Tomorrow is the final day of the Extreme Sailing Series Asia Muscat event which will see the event and overall series trophies claimed. With a similar weather conditions expected tomorrow – the stakes could not be higher!
Watch the videos of Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team capsizing, and the highlights video for Day 4 in Muscat, in the Multimedia section.