Extreme Sailing Series: Oman Air secures top honours in San Diego
After finishing second in the second and third Acts of the 2018 Extreme Sailing Series (ESS) at Riva del Garda, Italy and Barcelona, Spain, respectively, Oman Air, finally, tasted success on Sunday when it claimed the top honours in Act Six in San Diego, US.
It also ended a win drought for Oman Air since August, 2017, when it last won an ESS Act in Hamburg, Germany.
Phil Robertson-led Oman Air claimed the trophy on Sunday amid intense drama and tight racing on Harbor Island.
With the battle between Oman Air and series leader Alinghi going down to the wire, victory came in the final double-points race, as Oman Air won by a single point.
Alinghi still leads in the overall rankings with 68 points with one more Act remaining for the season to conclude. SAP Extreme Sailing Team is second with 65 while Oman Air is third with 63.
Oman Air finishing the San Diego Act with an impressively consistent scoresheet to scupper Alinghi’s chances of a fifth win this year.
Despite Alinghi’s hard work to maintain the lead it had held since the start of the Act, the team was unable to defend its advantage over Robertson and his Oman Air crew - Pete Greenhalgh, Nasser al Mashari, Stewart Dodson and James Wierzbowski.
A formidable battle ensued as the end of racing approached. Race 20, the fifth of the day’s six races, saw the two boats line up against each other, forcing one another into unfavourable lanes. As Oman Air approached the top mark, Alinghi dialled it down on starboard, preventing it from tacking into clean air.
Eventually, Oman Air broke free, charging towards the top of the course with Alinghi right
behind. Converging at the mark, the boats blocked each other once again as INEOS Rebels UK swung past and down to the finish, taking advantage of the escalating tactical clash at the top of the course.
Oman Air finished race 20 just behind INEOS, heading into the final double-points race just three points ahead of Alinghi.
The double-points decider was another tense affair. While Alinghi secured the lead early on, Oman Air followed behind, keeping a keen eye on chasing SAP Extreme Sailing Team; Robertson and his crew all were too aware that finishing third would deny it an Act win.
After another round of match racing, this time with the Danes, Oman Air crossed the line in second, securing its first Act win of the year.
“We are absolutely stoked,” said an elated Robertson.
“This has been a long time coming. We’ve been working pretty hard so its nice to reap the rewards and get a win. It’s great to topple Alinghi for once.”
The crews will now begin preparations for the highly anticipated double-points grand finale is Los Cabos, Mexico, which takes place from November 29-December 2.
San Diego results: 1 Oman Air (233 pts), 2 Alinghi (232), 3 SAP Extreme Sailing Team (226), 4 Red Bull Sailing Team (199), 5 INEOS Rebels UK (190), 6 Element Spark Compass (159), 7 Team México (147).
Overall standings [after six Acts]: 1 Alinghi (68 pts), 2 SAP Extreme Sailing Team (65), 3 Oman Air (63), 4 INEOS Rebels UK (54), 5 Red Bull Sailing Team (50), 6 Team México (42).