Rio De Janerio: The fight is on as two points separate first from fourth in Extreme Sailing Series. It was another nail-biting action on water under blazing Brazilian sun as day two of the Extreme Sailing Series in Rio de Janeiro saw fortunes changing by the minute. Despite being holed after Red Bull Sailing Team collided with them on the first day, Oman Air was back on the water thanks to the hard work of Jo Lees and his technical shore crew, Mohammed Al Shukaily and Hilal Al Zadjali. They worked through the night, only finishing by breakfast this morning, to finish repairs on the damaged catamaran and place it back on the race track.
"This morning at 11.30 we launched it. They had fixed everything and it was great," said Oman Air crewman Nasser Al Mashari. "Jo, Mohammed and Hilal helped us a lot on the shore side." Skipper Morgan Larson added: "The boat is as good as it was when it was brand new, so we were happy to perform decently today, keep the boat in one piece and do right by them." Oman Air repaid their shore team's efforts by finishing first in today's second race.
As always with the Extreme Sailing Series, it was a contest of snakes and ladders out on the race course, but particularly so, as the wind blew 5-6 knots at the beginning and end of the races, building to 10-12 knots in mid-afternoon and through this period, shifting by 90 degrees and back. Such conditions meant no team could perform consistently .
On two occasions, The Wave, Muscat and Oman Air were tied in first place on the Rio leaderboard, but at the close of play The Wave, Muscat was technically second, although tied on points with the leader now the Roman Hagara-skippered Red Bull Sailing Team with Oman Air fourth, but just two points from first. The contest remains close after 14 races.
In terms of the 2012 overall Extreme Sailing Series championship, The Wave, Muscat is still looking safe in first, but it could not be tighter for Oman Air in their fight to hang on to second. As it stands now, Morgan Larson's team is tied in second place with Red Bull Sailing Team, while Groupe Edmond de Rothschild is just half a point behind in fourth. Any two of these three are expected to end up on the podium.
"Today it was a really tricky day," said The Wave, Muscat's bowman, Hashim Al Rashdi. "The breeze was up and down and quite shifty, but not only for us. For all of the fleet it was a hard, hard day. I am surprised and so happy to hear we are second."
With winds changing by the second, it was necessary to be fast 'changing gears', shifting crew weight forward and aft, as well as from side to side. "Sometimes it was 5 knots and sometimes it was 14, so we had to adapt to the situations, but I think, as a team, we did a really good job with our boat handling," added Al Rashdi.
The reaction of his skipper, Leigh McMillan, was more extreme. He came ashore, incensed by his own performance, and was shocked to hear his team was tied for first. "That's a surprise. We thought we'd had a terrible day! I thought we'd be fifth or sixth, at best. You've delivered some lifesaving news," said McMillan.
As to the performance of his Omani bowman, Leigh McMillan praised him: "Hashim is sailing well, despite the difficult conditions, because it's always changing: It's 'wind on' or 'wind off' and he's having to run around, reacting to some really difficult conditions. He is doing a great job."
While The Wave, Muscat still has not won a race, Oman Air's performance was slightly less consistent, finishing first in two today while in two other races, Morgan Larson's team had to fight back from last place at the start.
"In one we got pinned out first by the Brazilians, and then in the final start the wind headed a little bit and I tried a risky move, and got under the fleet and pinned out again, and had to gybe round while everyone was racing. My starting didn't help today, but we have such a deep team on board and they just kept fighting all the way through," admitted Larson.
Oman Air's Omani crewman, Nasser Al Mashari, added: "It was a long, hot day. The wind was up and down with big gusts and lulls, but it was pretty good. We had a couple of firsts and a couple in the middle, so I am happy with the results. But we have another two days and every day it can change and, Let's hope we can get more points."