Muscat: The two Oman Sail teams participating in the Extreme Sailing Series (ESS), Oman Air and The Wave, Muscat, are gearing up for the fifth Act of the global circuit, taking place in the United Kingdom from August 22 to 25. To be held in the heart of Cardiff Bay, more than 120,000 spectators are expected to come to the public village to witness the elite level stadium racing between 11 teams representing seven nations.
The pressure building on Oman Sail's The Wave, Muscat to close the gap at the top of series leaderboard has been welcomed by skipper Leigh McMillan and his crew, while Oman Air unveils one change in its line-up.
Lying second in the 2014 rankings, just three points behind leaders Alinghi, McMillan has identified Cardiff as a key event in The Wave, Muscat's defence of the Extreme Sailing Series title which they won last year and in 2012.
"This is a very important part of the season," said McMillan who has previously shown good form in Cardiff taking first and second in 2013 and 2012 respectively.
"It is half way through the series and there are three events in quick succession starting with Cardiff so there will be quite a lot of pressure on us but I am excited about the challenge that faces us.
"So far this season, we have weathered a few situations and made sure we are still in contention. It is very close between us and Alinghi, almost 'even stevens' with just three points difference which is nothing, especially when there is a double pointer right at the end.
"The target is to try to get a point or two back on Alinghi over the next two events so we can go into the last one in a situation where if we beat them, we can still win."We also need to make sure the teams behind us don't get a big jump on us so it is time to stamp our mark on the series and hopefully we
can do that."
McMillan will race with his regular crew in Cardiff of Oman's Nasser Al Mashari, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler and Sarah Ayton who revealed that a debrief after their second place in St Petersburg in June had formed the basis of a plan for further improvement.
"Russia was a big improvement on China and the plan is to get into the points really quickly in Cardiff and try to improve even more," she said. "If we can do that, we will be strong. I have not raced Extreme 40s in Cardiff before but by all accounts it will be a bit like Singapore with small race courses and potentially big gusts so it will be pretty spicy and hectic."
The Wave, Muscat is one of just two teams in a field of 11 to stay with tried and tested crew at Cardiff and Rob Greenhalgh, skipper of Oman Air, has welcomed talented under-25 Australian Ted Hackney to his crew, replacing Tom Johnson who seized an opportunity to join Chris Nicholson's Team Vestas Wind in the Volvo Ocean Race.
"Ted is a very good sailor who came through Australia's Youth Sailing Academy," explained Greenhalgh. "He is fit and strong and has done a lot of match racing and although he doesn't have much experience of Extreme 40s, it will only take him a short while to start making a difference."
Cardiff is a new venue for Greenhalgh, who will have his regular crew Hashim Al Rashdi and Musab Al Hadi alongside as well as Kyle Langford.
"I have been told it is a very tight course but from what we know about the weather so far, it is not looking too windy at the start of the event but I imagine it will be more of the same, lots of crash and burn.
"I'm looking forward to it. The goal is to get in the top half and I think we are very close to doing that," he said.
Cardiff Bay, where the Extreme 40 fleet race close to shore, provides a superb viewing platform for "Stadium Racing" and in addition, there will be live music, street and open-air theatre, children's entertainment and sporting and food events since Act 5 is one of the highlights of the 2014 Cardiff Harbour Festival.
There will be live online race commentary at www.extremesailingseries from August 23 to 25.
The Wave, Muscat crew members: 1. Leigh McMillan, skipper (GBR), 2. Nasser Al Mashari, bowman (OMA), 3. Pete Greenhalgh, mainsail trimmer (GBR), 4. Sarah Ayton, tactician (GBR) and 5. Kinley Fowler, trimmer (NZL).
Oman Air crew members: 1. Rob Greenhalgh, skipper (GBR), 2. Hashim Al Rashdi, bowman (OMA), 3. Musab Al Hadi, bow & trimmer assist (OMA), 4. Ted Hackney (AUS) and 5. Kyle Langford (AUS).