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2 March 2012, 10:13 am
French Favourites On Target For Act 1 Victory
Zoulou
Zoulou

Extreme Sailing Series
Muscat, Oman

Groupe Edmond de Rothschild lead going into the final day of Act 1 but Oman Air are just one point off first place.
The penultimate day of the Extreme Sailing Series, Act 1 in Muscat, Oman saw the wind speed ratchet up a few knots, as did the competition. The intense head to head between Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and the impressive new team on Oman Air continued unabated and, once again, only 1 point separates these two teams going into the final day of Act 1, in favour of the French favourites.

"Radical," said Morgan Larson back on the dockside. "It was an entertaining day definitely. We knew we might struggle a bit when the breeze came up… Today has tightened the field up a lot with Red Bull, GAC Pindar and The Wave right on our heels." There could not be two more contrasting skippers in the laid-back, stocky, surf-loving Californian and the intense, focused, slightly built Pierre Pennec.

The Extreme 40 racing started in around 9 knots of wind that increased to 12 then 14 knots delivering plenty of hull-flying action and close combat at the top mark. Reaching start, 100m sprint to the top mark, 6 Extreme 40s screaming into the mark got the adrenalin pumping for the sailors and spectators. It made the racing full-on for the 8 Extreme 40 teams on the short, sharp stadium race courses with reaching starts that caught out the new and less experienced skippers where timing the fast approach to the start line demands accuracy and skill, punishing those who get it wrong. The tight stadium action resulted in numerous penalties and a few scrapes, whilst Alinghi found themselves entangled with the race mark on two occasions.

Getting a taste of the Extreme 40 action was Omani footballer, Saad al-Mukhaini, who was celebrating his team's win against Thailand the night before to continue on their World Cup qualifying journey. Al-Mukhaini, who is taking part in the Arsenal selection trials, went racing with Oman Air and watching the racing was His Highness Sayyid Tariq bin Shabib Al Said, of the Sultanate of Oman royal family.

Pierre Pennec's team scored the first win of the day but could only claim one more race win out of the 8 races today, as the other teams jostled for places at the front. Loick Peyron's team on Zoulou won the second race, Alinghi the third, then GAC Pindar who are showing bursts of fantastic form in their second season of racing. In the next race GAC Pindar crewman Mark Bulkeley suffered a minor head injury, diverting the crew's attention as Pennec claimed the win. "Coming in for a hoist, the spinnaker gets thrown round the shroud to keep it out of the way," explained Bulkeley. "And the furling unit just caught me on the side of the head - there was a bit of blood but nothing too serious." With Bulkeley's head injury attended to the British team bounced back to win the next race.

Leigh McMillan's team on The Wave, Muscat did enough to maintain their third position on the leaderboard. "We managed to keep it quite clean," said Brit McMillan. "We only get 1 penalty today - we got too close to Red Bull and took a penalty but that's what the racing was like today. We're getting into a good place and we're hoping to go out tomorrow and finish it off." Roman Hagara's Red Bull Sailing Team also managed to hold on to their fourth place ahead of GAC Pindar going into the final day of Act 1.

Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Act 1, Muscat, Oman standings after Day 3, 22 races (1.3.12)
Position / Team / Points

1. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA) Pierre Pennec 121 points
2. Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson 120 points
3. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan 116 points
4. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara 110 points
5. GAC Pindar (GBR) Ian Williams 102 points
6. ZouLou (FRA) Loick Peyron 85 points
7. Alinghi (SUI), Ernesto Bertarelli 74 points
8. Team Trifork (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen 64 points

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