Quadruple Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie saw five different winners carry off the prizes in the opening seven races of the Extreme Sailing Series regatta in Oman, but he was not one of them. As his JP Morgan/BAR crew includes two more British Olympic champions, Paul Goodison and Pippa Wilson, his reaction was surprisingly calm when he said: “We had some good races and some bad races…but we certainly have the ability to be up there with the top group, which is where we aim to be.”
Staged off the al Mouj golf club, conditions were tricky and, at the end of the day, only seven points separated the leader, SAP, skippered by Denmark’s Jes Gram-Hansen, from sixth-placed Red Bull, skippered by Austrian gold medallist Roman Hagara, and there was plenty of Olympic gold in between.
Second on the day was the winner of the opening regatta in Singapore, Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi, where Anna Tunnicliffe, born in Yorkshire but brought up in Ohio, is racing alongside US compatriot Morgan Larson. Another America’s Cup aspirant, France’s Franck Cammas on Groupama, is third and in fourth another gold medallist, Sarah Ayton, crews for the defending 2012 and 2013 champion Leigh McMillan on The Wave Muscat.
They had been equal on points at the end of the 2013 series, McMillan snatching it on countback, and they not only want a hat-trick of wins but are being pressed by Team New Zealand and Dean Barker, meaning there are four potential America’s Cup squads in action, though the fourth, Team Australia on GAC Pindar, had a disappointing day, carrying the red tail light in 11th.
The remaining three days will see British race officer Phil Lawrence staging shorter races over stadium-style courses.