A comeback in one race and a storming display in the deciding final race of the regatta gave Leigh McMillan and the crew of The Wave a popular home win in the Muscat leg of the Extreme Sailing Series.
As a reigning champion looking for a hat-trick of titles on what is an eight-regatta circuit in 2014, McMillan is signalling intent in a fleet boosted by some America’s Cup hopefuls, including Britain’s Sir Ben Ainslie, awaiting the release, promised before the end of this month, of the rules for the next AC in 2017.
It was a former America’s Cup winner, Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi, that pushed McMillan all the way last year and at times was giving The Wave a hard time over the last four days but skipper Morgan Larson had to settle for third on a track which has seen yo-yo performances from all the 11 40-foot catamarans.
In contrast, McMillan came good when it mattered. He left himself and a crew which includes British Olympic gold medallist Sarah Ayton with a little more to do after a start-line collision with Roman Hagara’s Red Bull in the last race but one. The Tornado sailor could probably win a shouting match with Sir Alex Ferguson but had no answer for the silent response of a penalty flag from the umpires.
Still, despite starting a long way last, with the breeze finally gusting up to 20 knots, he fought back to seventh to score the vital points to retain the initiative. The last race scored double points and allowed another America’s Cup competitor, Dean Barker, to force Emirates Team New Zealand to snatch second overall.
“It was absolutely amazing out there today. The conditions were superb, we’ll struggle to better than that this year I should think,” said McMillan. “It was a huge team effort, we really wanted it. Today we had a fight on our hands and had to raise our game. In a way, when the pressure is on it kind of comes off for me and the team.”
“Now we are really looking forward to the next event in Qingdao. It’s a venue that can throw any conditions at you, from light to strong, from cold to hot and clear to foggy. It is possibly one of the most challenging venues on the circuit, but it’s always good to go back and race at the 2008 Olympic venue,”he added.
Ainslie was having a miserable final day as a couple of bad races were made worse when the hydraulic system failed. It included first having to sit out McMillan’s naughty step race as attempts were made at a repair. That failed and, as his J.P.Morgan/BAR team sat out the final race as well, it slipped to finish ninth overall.
“It was really frustrating that we weren’t able to compete in the last couple of races, especially with the points being so close,” said tactician Paul Goodison. “We feel a little bit dark that we didn’t get to race it out in the end, but it is what it is.”
But, despite being anchored in last place, a change of helmsman, David Gilmour, son of Peter, taking over from Seve Jarvin saw better results from another America’s Cup outfit, Team Australia, on GAC Pindar.
Extreme Sailing Series 2014 Act 2, Muscat final standings after 29 races:
1 The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler, Nasser Al Mashari 188 pts
2 Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Dean Barker, Glenn Ashby, James Dagg, Jeremy Lomas, Edwin Delaat 180 pts
3 Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Anna Tunnicliffe, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 179 pts
4 SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Peter Wibroe, Nicolai Sehested 176 pts
5 Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Paul Campbell-James, Alister Richardson, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 158 pts
6 Realteam by Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bryan Mettraux, Thierry Wassem, Nils Palmieri 153 pts
7 Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans-Peter Steinacher, Mark Bulkeley, Nick Blackman, Stewart Dodson 145 pts
8 Groupama sailing team (FRA) Franck Cammas, Sophie de Turckheim, Tanguy Cariou, Thierry Fouchier, Devan Le Bihan 144 pts
9 J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Goodison, Pippa Wilson, Matt Cornwell 137 pts
10 Oman Air (OMA) Rob Greenhalgh, Tom Johnson, Will Howden, Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi 123 pts
11 GAC Pindar (AUS) Seve Jarvin, Troy Tindill, Ed Smyth, Sam Newton, David Gilmour 94 pts
Extreme Sailing Series 2014 overall standings after two regattas:
1 The Wave, Muscat (OMA) 19 pts
2 Alinghi (SUI) 18 pts
3 Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) 16 pts
4 Realteam by Realstone (SUI) 13 pts
5 Groupama sailing team (FRA) 9 pts
6 Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 9 pts
7 Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) 9 pts
8 SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 8 pts
9 J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) 6 pts
10 Oman Air (OMA) 3 pts
11 GAC Pindar (AUS) 2 pts