Oman Sail Masirah Takes Overall Victory At Extreme Sailing Series Debut In Hong Kong
Oman Sail's Masirah continued their winning form by taking a comfortable overall victory in the first leg of the inaugural Extreme Sailing Series Asia in Hong Kong on Tuesday afternoon.
The champions of this year's European Series, skippered by Pete Cumming of Great Britain, consolidated their overnight lead by winning the first three races today to set them on the way to victory over the 20 races held in Hong Kong's spectacular Victoria Harbour during the last five days.
BT took second place, followed by the China Team and Shirley Robertson's Rumbo Almeira. The Wave, Muscat and Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team rounded out the six-boat field.
Said Cumming, "We had very different winds here to the European circuit and with two new members of the team we are really pleased to have done so well. We had to learn to adapt to a new bow and helmsmen and it's been a great challenge that the whole team has risen to. We came here not looking for or expecting a win, just gave it our best. Bring on Singapore!"
Masirah is backed by the Sultanate of Oman as part of a programme to reignite the country's maritime heritage and inspire Omani youth. As such, Omani squad member Khamis Al Anbouri was on the bow this week and thoroughly enjoyed the result.
"I'm so happy with the finish we had beating everyone and with lots of points to spare!" said Khamis. "I think I'm the first Omani in history to sail in Hong Kong since Sinbad travelled here from Oman all those years ago. I'm so pleased to race as part of a professional series and race in front of these top sailors. It's been a great experience and I think I'm allowed to call myself a professional sailor now - I'm so pleased!" he laughed.
As Masirah and the BT battled for the top spot in Hong Kong, the fight for third was a thriller between the China Team, making their debut in the Extreme 40 Series, and Rumbo Almeira, skippered by double Olympic Gold Medallist Shirley Robertson.
With one race to go and the traditional double points on offer, Thierry Barot's China Team had to finish ahead of Robertson's team to secure the last podium position, which they successfully did in a fitting finale to the Hong Kong leg.
Said Barot, "It's a fantastic result. You always dream that you will do well, but before this event and being realistic, we felt we had no hope, particularly after our opening day which was really tough. But our boat handling got so much better, we started reading what was happening on the water and reacting to it and Hugh [Styles] was so confident and never had a doubt about making a decision - he knew our crew could do it.
"We were on such a steep learning curve, but showed the other teams here just what we could do."
One of the unique features of the Extreme Sailing Series is that the four-man crew is joined by a 'fifth man', a VIP guest or member of the media that is onboard for the racing action. Local Hong Kong model and actor Terrence Yin stepped onboard Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team today.
"It was exhilarating to be part of the wind and to move in the water without the sound of engine. This was my first time to be on a sail boat, so it was a privilege to basically sit still while all this work was going on around me," said Yin.
"I had in my mind the image of the drummer on a dragon boat as the fifth man, someone who acts as a cheerleader. It was definitely not like that. The Red Bull team was fired up and did a great job and did not need me cheering them on," he added.
The Extreme 40s were here in Hong Kong to demonstrate the potential of bringing a full scale public event to the region in 2010 and 2011 - a chance to showcase the specatacle of Extreme 40 racing to the national and international media and VIP guests.
Nola Ni from Nautica, one of China's leading boating publications, raced in the fifth man position onboard BT.
"For me, this was an extremely exciting opportunity. It is very different to what I have experienced before, because the racing happens right in the middle of the city. The contrast of the sport and real life going on in the harbour at the same time is great and so close to the shore. I like the way that the harbour is not closed to traffic, so you have working boats and the racing boats on the water at the same time.
"When you are actually on the boats in the fifth man spot, it is amazing. I had the chance to sail with some of the world's best skippers - the very best in the world were here, so that is unique," she said.
Guy Nowell and OC EventsNick Moloney, the skipper of BT, who won the Around the Island Race on Sunday as part of the Series, was delighted with his runner-up placing. A big push saw them finish with a second and a win in the last two races to secure the second spot.
"We needed those good scores earlier," said Moloney. "The trap with this type of sailing is to be conservative. If you think that, then you get hammered. You have to race to win - game on, don't sail to cover otherwise you get smashed. At one point we were sailing for third, forget that - go for the win! It's been awesome. To win the Around the Island Race was a highlight personally for me. When we finished, we erupted and it was genuine passion."
The Extreme Sailing Series Asia now moves on to Singapore for the second leg (11-15 December) before the inaugural series concludes in Muscat, Oman, from 1-5 February.
1. Oman Sail's Masirah 104 points
2. BT 93
3. China Team 71
4. Rumbo Almeira 62
5. The Wave, Muscat 57
6. Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team 54
Read more at www.extremesailingseriesasia.com