The pressure mounted on the final day of the Extreme Sailing Series Act 5 in Cardiff, and it was more than apparent out on Cardiff Bay.
Leigh McMillan helming The Wave, Muscat was in the hunt for his fourth straight win, to match the Alinghi record set in 2008, and things were generally going his way until the fourth race of today. A penalty at the start of that race for infringing the leeward boats put McMillan at the back of the nine-boat fleet. In a single moment, the door opened even wider for their stable-mates Oman Air, skippered by US sailor Morgan Larson, and Austria's Red Bull Sailing Team to get back in the frame. Two races later Oman Air went into the lead by just 2 points leaving McMillan and Hagara on equal points.
Going into the final double-points race, all eyes were on the two Omani teams and the Austrians. Morgan Larson ensured his team got the best start, McMillan was also fast off the start line but for Hagara it was a false start - the team's hopes of their first 2012 Act win were over as the fleet sailed away. "We tried to win the Act here and we had a good chance,"
said Hagara. "We were leading on the first two days, but then on the third day we had a bad day, no good starts at all so we had to fight all the way then we had a false start in the last race today. We had a chance to win, but the OCS was really hard."
It was the ever-improving Danish team SAP Extreme Sailing who enjoyed the glory of winning the final race, but the Oman Air crew had done enough. Finishing in 2nd place cemented their spot at the top of the podium for the second time this season after winning the inaugural Act in Muscat, Oman, and denying The Wave, Muscat their fourth straight win. "Our level of sailing was high enough to win all week, but somebody just always had a little better day than us, especially The Wave, Muscat,"
said Morgan Larson. "You know, those guys are so good. They are a real challenge for us, but as it got lighter and shiftier, I think that worked to our advantage a little bit - it really was anybody's race. We just got on a roll for the last few races. To win here is fantastic. It is a testament to the Series and the competitors that there were five teams in for the win on the last race."
The win here for Oman Air also move Larson's team up into second place on the Overall 2012 leaderboard behind The Wave, Muscat. "It was really hard today, but I think we made it hard for ourselves,"
said McMillan. "We weren't executing the starts and the wind was a lot lighter today, so the holes were more aggressive than usual and we struggled to adapt to the situation. We can't beat ourselves up too much, second is still good for the Overall scores."
GAC Pindar, helmed by Andrew Walsh supported by US Olympian Anna Tunnicliffe calling tactics, had sailed brilliantly throughout this Act putting the British team within touching distance of their first podium finish this season, but a penalty in the penultimate race ruined their chances and the team finished in 4th overall just 3 points off Red Bull Sailing Team.
The French team of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild will leave Cardiff empty-handed and frustrated that their pre-season status as favourites is not bearing fruit on the water, although they retain 4th in the Overall 2012 rankings. Ernesto Bertarelli's Swiss team on Alinghi mixed it up enough to keep the leaderboard close going into the final day, finally finishing in 7th just 3 points off 5th placed SAP Extreme Sailing Team.
The local entry of Team Wales, skippered by young talent Dave Evans, had the support of the 35,000-strong crowd that crammed into the best vantage points around Cardiff Bay over the 4 days. "We experienced the crowds for the first time at the Games during the medal race and that was pretty insane with like 5000 people on the hill shouting at us,"
said 470 Olympic silver medalist Hannah Mills who crewed on Team Wales. "But it was wicked here - all round the Bay and everywhere you went there were people shouting and screaming, it was really cool."
Next stop on the Extreme Sailing Series will be Act 7 in Nice, France. OC Sport, the organisers of the award-winning Extreme Sailing Series, have been forced to cancel Act 6 in Trapani, Sicily, that was due to start in just 10 days time as the Province of Trapani and the regional government of Sicily failed to execute their financial and operational obligations necessary to host the event.
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Act 5, Cardiff, Wales, UK standings after Day 4, 32 races (2.9.12)
Position / Team / Points
1. Oman Air (OMA), Morgan Larson 199 points
2. The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Leigh McMillan 188 points
3. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT), Roman Hagara 181 points
4. GAC Pindar (GBR), Andrew Walsh 178 points
5. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN), Jes Gram-Hansen 174 points
6. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec 173.3 points
7. Alinghi (SUI), Ernesto Bertarelli 167 points
8. ZouLou (FRA), Erik Maris 124 points
9. Team Wales, Dave Evans 104 points
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Overall Series Results after Act 5, Cardiff
Position / Team / Points
1. The Wave, Muscat 48 points
2. Oman Air 41 points
3. Red Bull Sailing Team 41 points
4. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild 36 points
5. GAC Pindar 29 points
6. SAP Extreme Sailing Team 24 points
7. Alinghi 22 points
8. ZouLou 19 points