Portugal: The Wave, Muscat returned to victory in Porto today with four clean strikes to get their defence of the Extreme Sailing Series (ESS) Porto crown off to a promising start despite technical issues that had threatened to cloud their success.
After a two-and-a-half month break from the last ESS event in Qingdao, Leigh McMillan's team were quickly back in contention in Act 5, sweeping to a win in the opening race, even though McMillan was forced to manually pump the mainsail when a hydraulic ram failed.
"It made things pretty hectic and stressful, but we managed to deal with it," said McMillan. With a perfect breeze of between 10 and 15 knots and in returning to one of the smallest stadium courses of all the ESS venues, The Wave, Muscat were on top of their game, posting two wins in the first three races plus a second. "We had our technical issues mostly resolved by the third race, which meant we were able to focus, but then our adrenaline was running very high and stress levels were high, and we dropped to fifth."
All the time, they had Jerome Clerc's Realteam breathing down their necks, boosted as they were by the addition of experienced Extreme 40 sailor Pierre Pennec for Porto.
But after nine races, The Wave, Muscat had a four-point advantage over the Swiss team and, more crucially, were 12 points ahead of their main rivals Alinghi, also from Switzerland.
"We were fired up for this, so it feels good to be at the top of the leaderboard, but we know full well that one of the others will have their day tomorrow, so we have to keep fighting all the way."
For Musab Al Hadi, fresh from his success in the F18 World Championships with ESS teammate Hashim Al Rashdi in Italy earlier this month, four wins on Day 1 had filled him with confidence. "When you consider that we had to deal with the hydraulics problem for the first three races, I think we did really well, and we are very happy," he said.
"The boat is going fast and we are sailing it fast, but tomorrow is another day, so hopefully, we will do the same."
Celebrations were the theme of the day after Douro Marina, the host of the Extreme Sailing Series Porto, officially inaugurated its Wall of Fame to celebrate and commemorate the winners of the sailing events that have been hosted at the marina.
The first plaque to be posted on the wall honoured The Wave, Muscat and Leigh McMillan, which won the Porto Act in 2012.