If the second day of racing was all about the new talent, the third days was about experience with the established teams using their knowledge of the short stadium style race courses to make the most of the light winds at the Extreme Sailing Series in Muscat, Oman.
As the stage is set for the final day, the battle has a familiar mix of Red Bull Sailing Team, The Wave, Muscat and Alinghi who are vying for points at the top of the Act 1 leaderboard but it was Austria's double Olympic winning light air specialist Roman Hagara who was the man of match, with four race wins for Red Bull Sailing Team which could have set his team on a course for their first ever Act win.
Before racing Hagara said he was looking for consistency and he found it, "We had a good day and we're some points ahead now which is quite nice for the last day. It will still be a hard day because the final race is double points, so in the end it can always change but we try to stay focused and then do our best for tomorrow. This team deserve to win their first event together, last year we were always close we had really good first days and then one bad day and dropped back so I think it's time for our team and just maybe we can do it."
In the light breeze, the starts played a critical role in the team's tactics, and with few gains to be made on the racecourse, mistakes were punished hard. By the defending champion Leigh McMillan's standards, it was a disappointing day for his team on The Wave, Muscat, and even they fell victim to the light winds, picking up a penalty in the sixth race, which proved costly. The team have a 15 point deficit from Red Bull Sailing Team, but known for their ability to fight back on the final day, you can be sure McMillan will come out all guns blazing.
Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi had the wind in their sails again, and if it wasn't for a sour twist on the end of a beautiful day for the Swiss America's Cup winning team when they were given a penalty for hitting the mark causing them to fall from second to sixth, they would be in second place going into the final day. The team last enjoyed being on the Extreme Sailing Series podium in Almeria, Spain in 2011 where they won the Act and skipper Bertarelli is hoping the final day could be the one to turn that around. "We are happy that we are sailing better then we have in the past and it feels good to be in a podium position. We will see what happens. It is tricky in the light winds but we have a new tactician (Morgan Larson) and he is making some good calls. He won the event here last year and it is working well. The plan is to start ahead, stay ahead and finish first."
Robert Greenhalgh has made quite an impact on his return to the Extreme Sailing Series and after a five year respite, the inaugural Series winner has lost none of his spark. Skippering the invitational team, Team Duqm Oman, they are within punching distance of the podium, leading the second half of the fleet in fourth place. "I think at the back of my mind we would like to be flying towards podium positions, but we're happy. It's obviously such close racing, it's very competitive and tough racing, it can go anywhere at any stage as you can see from the results, but as a new team, we've got to be pretty pleased. With lighter winds and very tight racing, it's just all about learning and seeing what does and doesn't work and that's just about having the experience in the fleet."
The new Kiwi skippers onboard Team Korea and GAC Pindar both had another solid day, and are quickly adapting to the Extreme 40 racecourse, with their respective skippers Olympic Silver medallist Peter Burling, World #5 ISAF Open match racer racer William Tiller both securing finishes in the top half of the fleet. Realteam's new skipper Jerome Clerc - a multihull expert in the D35, who was winning races in his first day on the Extreme 40 racecourse has struggled in the light breeze as have SAP Extreme Sailing Team, but known for their last day ability to deliver, particularly in the final double pointer, the battle is far from over.
And so the stage is set for the final day. Could Red Bull Sailing Team be on course for their first ever Act win? Will Alinghi finish on the podium for the first time since 2011? Will defending champion Leigh McMillan find his form tomorrow and pull it out of the bag? Or will one of the new skippers step up to the mark? As always nothing is a certainty and with the final double point's race, it's all to play for.
Extreme Sailing Series 2013 Act 1, Muscat, Oman standings after Day 3, 21 races (7.3.13)
Position / Team / Points
1. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara 177 points.
2. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan 162 points.
3. Alinghi (SUI) Ernesto Bertarelli 159 points.
4. Team Duqm Oman (OMA) Robert Greenhalgh 129 points.
5. Team Korea (KOR) Peter Burling 120 points.
6. GAC Pindar (NZL) Will Tiller 116 points.
7. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen 112 points.
8. Realteam (SUI) Jerome Clerc 107points.