Muscat: Treacherous seas and raging winds in Southport, Australia, have favoured the well-built athletes competing in the 2013 Nacra Infusion World Championships, but Oman Sail's leading F18 pair, Musab Al Hadi and Ahmed Al Bulushi, are holding their own with a string of top-ten results.
Cyclonic winds along the east coast of Queensland have played havoc with the championship schedule in Southport, with the competition being abandoned for one entire day because of the strong winds and cut short on another day when heavy squalls upturned the race boats and sent the support crafts into full rescue mode.
Although the difficult conditions have favoured the heavier sailors, Al Hadi and Bulushi—who, at around 70 kilos each, are among the lightest crews in the 25-boat fleet—have stayed with the frontrunners throughout the event, taking a creditable fourth place overall, with three days of racing still remaining.
"It is a windy location, and the fast sailors have the body weight to suit it," said Paul Wakelin, Oman Sail's National Catamaran Coach. "We have had 5–6 metre seas every day and winds topping 30 knots, but despite relatively little experience in these conditions, our guys are holding their own.
"If they can stay consistent when the winds drop down into our performance band, then hopefully, they will move up the scoreboard." For the moment though, Al Hadi and Bulushi are riding the testing conditions and picking their moments, with performances their coach has described as 'outstanding.' "In the last race, our guys finally picked their moment to get their tack in, only to be engulfed by 35 knots of raining fury!" stated Wakelin.
"They and the three boats around them could only feather their sails and just work to keep their boat upright. As soon as the cloud let them go, they found themselves with only two boats sailing behind them, but they drove on at a solid 28 knots, kept the boat upright, and worked their way back to 5th in a 35-minute two-lap race. It was outstanding."
Musab Al Hadi—who became involved with Oman Sail after seeing them racing while he was fishing with his father in Sidab, Muscat, during his childhood—has been racing F18s with Ahmed Al Bulushi for two years, producing some impressive results in a short time.
In 2012, they finished in the top ten in three major European championships. The talented pair decided to treat the Nacra Infusion Worlds as a 'process' regatta since their real focus was Oman Sail's star-studded and highly competitive Mussanah Week in Oman in March before taking on the F18 World Championships in Italy in July.
They have not competed since the 2012 F18 World Championships in Long Beach, California, where they won the opening race of the event, leaving behind a fleet of 118 teams, but were forced to withdraw after Musab's trapeze line failed and caused a serious hand injury.
The 2013 Nacra Infusion Worlds have attracted crews primarily from Australia and New Zealand. Fifteen races were scheduled from Feb. 2–7, but with only four having been completed so far, race officials are set to make revisions. A dropping breeze has been forecast for Southport over the next couple of days, which should finally favour Oman Sail's team.
"I know we've said it before, but the forecast shows a dropping breeze. If they can perform like this in these conditions, then it's game on for the lighter stuff," noted Wakelin.