There were huge smiles all round as Team Oman Air took their first event win of the 2018 Extreme Sailing Series with a dramatic single point victory in San Diego.
The crew of the GC32 foiling catamaran had to scrap for every point in largely light wind conditions, and the overall result was in the balance up to the last manoeuvre of the last leg of the final race.
Skipper Phil Robertson and the crew of Pete Greenhalgh, Stewart Dodson, James Wierzbowski and Nasser Al Mashari celebrated as they crossed the finish line to secure their first regatta win of the year.
Having held second place behind the Swiss team on Alinghi throughout the four-day regatta, the Oman Air crew turned up the wick on the final day with three successive race wins which gave them a narrow three point advantage going into the double-points finale.
Alinghi took the last race win, but smart tactics by Oman Air kept them second ahead of arch-rivals SAP Extreme Sailing Team to secure the Act victory by one point.
“It’s been a good day and it just shows you have to fight for every point,” said Robertson after celebrating the victory.
“It’s tough competition and it’s really nice to finally get a win this season. We knew if we kept ourselves right behind Alinghi on the last race and in front of SAP we would be in a good spot.”
The San Diego result closes the gap between Oman Air and Extreme Sailing Series season leaders Alinghi and second placed SAP, opening the prospect of a late bid for the title at the double-pointed decider in Mexico next month.
“We’re a happy team and have set ourselves up nicely for the last Act in Los Cabos,” said Robertson. “We’ll be going to Mexico to try and win the event that’s for sure, and it’s a bit out of hands after that, but the season is never over till it’s over, so we will stay focused right to the end.”
It’s an approach also shared by Greenhalgh, Oman Air’s mainsail trimmer, who said: “It’s definitely a good feeling to have got a win and the team deserved it, they have been working extremely hard. At this event we have been in it from the beginning and have been able to keep on nudging it up. We will be looking to deliver our best in Mexico.”
The pleasure of the hard-earned victory was also shared with the wider team, which includes coaches and vital support crew.
Bowman Al Mashari said: “It’s a real team effort – there are eight of us here in San Diego and everyone has a big part to play in the outcome, and we’ve also got a team back in Oman, so it is a huge team effort.
“It is great to be able to celebrate our first win of the season, and good too to be able to share it with everyone who has played a part in making it happen.”
Alinghi lead the 2018 Extreme Sailing Series on 68 points with SAP on 65 and Oman Air with 63. The double-pointed season finale in Los Cabos, Mexico, starting on 29 November, will deliver 24 points to the winner, 22 for second and so on.