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Oman Sail teams aim to finish on high


Oman Sail teams The Wave, Muscat and Oman Air in Rio De Janerio for the last leg of the Extreme 40 Series hoping to finish on the top. Supplied photo

Rio de janerio: Oman Sail starts the final Act of the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series in the Brazilian hotspot of Rio de Janeiro in a strong position, holding the top two positions in the nine boat fleet.


At present Leigh McMillan's crew on The Wave, Muscat leads second placed Oman Air by 8.5 points in the series overall, following an incredible season where they have won three Acts in Qingdao (China), Istanbul (Turkey) and Porto (Portugal) and finished second in the remaining three.

If The Wave, Muscat maintains this consistency in Rio then they could win the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series by the largest margin in the seven-year history of the circuit.

Because it is the final event of the season, results in Rio are weighted with a 1.5x co-efficient.
This means that if Oman Air wins, then The Wave, Muscat must finish better than sixth to secure the 2012 championship.

But with as many as 30 races to sail off the South American hotstop, skipper Leigh McMillan says they are not resting on their laurels: "It would be easy enough to mess it up, so we have to push hard as we have all year. The reality is we don't want to go out on a bit of a negative and just do it, we want to continue the form that we've had all year and have a good last event. It would be quite an achievement to finish inside the top two all year."

The possibility of Oman Sail teams finishing this season in first and second is one that Oman Air crewman Nasser Al Mashari is hoping for with pride.

"Inshallah, if it happens like that, that will be the first time for us in the Extreme Sailing Series," he says.

"Of course, I'd love Oman Air to win, but if another Omani team wins the series, it achieves the goal of raising the Oman flag to the top. We are happy if Oman Air or The Wave win, just so long as it is an Oman team."

But almost more important for Oman Air than trying to catch their teammates is holding on to second place overall.

To achieve this they must keep ahead of their main rivals: the French team on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and the Austrians, led by double Olympic Tornado gold medallist Roman Hagara, on Red Bull Sailing Team, both close behind them on the leaderboard.

Local challenge
In Rio they will also face a powerful local team that know the waters particularly well, with Team Brasil led by five time Olympic medallist TorbenGrael.

Since the last Extreme Sailing Series event in Nice mid-October, Al Mashari has been training in the gym every day and hopes he will be on top form this week.

"We are so ready for it. Inshallah we will aim to do as well as we did in Nice and Cardiff," he says, referring to the two events Oman Air has won this season.

"I have seen Rio only on television before. It is not like Europe or the USA or Asia or Arabia, it is more Latin. I am excited to see Brazil."

Meanwhile The Wave, Muscat bowman Hashim Al Rashdi is keeping his fingers crossed that come Sunday his team will be standing on top of the podium. "Omanis in first and second place - if it stays like that, it will be great for Oman and Oman Sail," he says.

For the last few weeks Al Rashdi has been in China, supporting his brother through an operation, but he too has been regularly going to the gym to maintain his fitness.

"I have been training hard in the gym, so I am looking forward to the final event and hopefully, Inshallah, we bring the Cup back to Oman."

This event will see Al Rashdi completing his first year racing the best of the best on the Extreme Sailing Series.

"Our game has moved on massively and Hashim is getting better and better with each event and we are pushing him harder and harder as he gets more in tune with the boat," says his British skipper Leigh McMillan.

"For his first season he's done really well and we want to continue to help him improve and become a natural Extreme 40 sailor.

"Although he is the bowman, he has developed into one of the core crew, so he has to learn to adapt to situations, to take on different roles if people get out of place and we get behind. That is what we are trying to teach him and he is getting there."
 
Meanwhile on Oman Air, Morgan Larson, who lives in California, has developed not only professional respect, but a real friendship with Nasser Al Mashari.

"His wife sends us Omani spices. Nasser delivers them to the events and my wife cooks a nice curry with them when I get home. But he is also a really talented athlete - he'll go farin sailing. We are pushing to have a second Omani on our boat next year, if we continue."

Racing gets underway on December 6 with an open water course off Rio's famous Copacabana Beach, before moving inside the harbour with stadium sailing off Flamengo Beach from December 7, the event concluding on December 9.

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