So near and yet so far for Oman Air
It was a tale of so close yet so far. A superlative display of sailing on the final day of the 2109 GC32 Racing Tour for Riva Cup on Sunday by Oman Air took the Oman Sail entry to the cusp of the cup only to lose it by a proverbial whisker to its arch-rival Alinghi at Lake Garda.
It was heartbreak for Oman Air team, skippered by Kiwi Adam Minoprio, as it bulldozed its opponents with hat-trick of bullets in the opening three races and make it four out of four after it had won the last race on Saturday.
Having fought back to get past Alinghi with a runner-up spot in the fourth race of the day, Oman Air set itself for a thrilling finale as it took a two-point lead over its main rival. With the new rules stating that in case of a tie between teams, the title will be decided on the basis of final race result.
With the stakes high, Oman Air stumbled in the concluding race, as it finished third and to rub salt into its wounds, Alinghi won the race to draw level (45 points each) after 19 races over four days. Red Bull Sailing Team, which had broken Oman Air’s four-race winning streak in the penultimate race, was second.
Alinghi was declared the winner of Riva Cup on the basis of the tie-break system that gives weightage to last-race winner. In fact, Oman Air had more race wins over the four days – seven as compared to six of Alinghi.
Following the success of Riva Cup, Alinghi now has a slender one-point lead over Oman Air in the GC32 championship overall standings. Oman Air lost the Riva Cup but it certainly won the hearts of everyone at the awards ceremony held at the beautiful terrace of Fraglia Vela Riva amidst the setting sun.
Oman Air and Alinghi are the frontrunners for the overall championship title, with both tied on points ahead of Riva Cup at five points each. It was a battle royale on Sunday at Lake Garda with southerly Ora winds providing a near perfect weather conditions.
Oman Air went into the final day with a four-point deficit but by the end of fourth and penultimate race, it had gained a two-point advantage,
Minoprio and his experienced crew of Peter Greenhalgh, Adam Piggott, Stewart Dodson and Nasser al Mashari came up trumps in the opening race and there was no stopping them as it raced to two more wins.
“It was a good day overall as we won three of the five races. It is a shame that we could not win the last one and that turned out to be decider,” skipper Minoprio told Muscat Daily.
“We made one mistake in the final race and that allowed Alinghi to squeeze past us. We were aware of the rule that the final race could decide in case of a tie-break with scores level,” added the Kiwi.
Minoprio admitted that Alinghi reaped the reward of being consistent and that Oman Air lost out many points on the opening day on Thursday. “I think we had a bad day in the office on the first day and that finally hurt us though we made a strong comeback to come level with Alinghi,” he said.
The Kiwi skipper said, “We need to be more consistent. The team is in good spirits as we know we did very well today and it was very close affair. We will now prepare for the final leg in Muscat and hope to trump Alinghi.”
Omani bowman Nasser al Mashari said the team fought hard and almost won the title but for the last race. “We know we are getting better and we can beat Alinghi. We will go out in Muscat where it is a straight battle between us for the championship,” he said.
This was the second win of the season for Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi following its victory at the GC32 World Championship in Lagos, Portugal in June.
“Today we had really tight racing with Oman Air,” said Alinghi helmsman Arnaud Psarofaghis.
“They sailed really well and they put us in a bad situation, but we knew it wasn’t over until the last race when we got the better of them. They tried to be smarter, but they gybed too late and we could just overlap them on the downwind and pushed them back in the fleet. Then Red Bull did a good job to stay ahead of them.”
The 2019 GC32 Racing Tour will conclude in Muscat from November 5-9, with the circuit’s two heavyweights – Oman Air and Alinghi - to determine who will be crowned 2019 champion.