SULTANATE OF OMAN IN THIRD PLACE

A day after strong winds forced abandonment of the opening day’s action, the Oman Sail’s Sultanate of Oman came up against a well-oiled Swiss machine in Alinghi as racing resumed in the Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour in Kiel, Germany on Friday.

And despite a late change to his crew, skipper Leigh McMillan was still able to post six podium finishes in eight races to finish third at the end of the day in the Sailing Cup Kiel.

Alinghi was on top with a strong 13-point lead over Sultanate of Oman, while Spindrift racing was in second spot, holding a narrow one-point lead over the Oman Sail team.

Sultanate of Oman was forced to make last-minute adjustments as experienced crew member Pete Greenhalgh fell sick. Paul Campbell-James, one of the Land Rover BAR America’s Cup sailors who last weekend won the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series in Portsmouth, UK, flew in shortly before racing started to take Greenhalgh’s place.

Campbell-James helmed Sultanate of Oman to victory in the recent J P Morgan Round the Island Race in England after McMillan broke his hand in the Cowes Cup in the UK.

But it has been more than 20 years since the pair raced on the same team. “Over the years, Pete and I have had a lot of time together on the boat, so it took time to get used to new crew,” said McMillan. “It is the first time Campbell-James and I sailed together. We have spent most of our time racing against each other. We have had some good rivalries over the years, so it is good to be on the same side of the sheet, for a change.”

McMillan was also supported by GC32 regulars Nasser al Mashari, Ed Smyth and Alister Richardson and as the day progressed, despite strong gusts that exceeded 20 knots, results improved with two second places posted in the last three races to finish the day behind Alinghi and Spindrift racing.

“We were pushing hard all the time, but Alinghi are very well oiled. They have their handling sorted, so we have a bit of catching up to do,” McMillan said. “It was challenging out there. The wind shifts and gusts have a massive impact on decision-making. It was a difficult course and I wasn’t making a great job of it, so it was a big day of learning.”

Crewmate Mashari was upbeat about prospects for the weekend. “We won the last couple of starts, but we didn’t manage to convert those into race wins. We are improving all the time, so will come out again with some good races.”

Meanwhile, Alinghi skipper Morgan Larson could barely comprehend his team’s level of dominance. For him, six wins from eight races was ‘unthinkable in such tricky and variable conditions’.

“It was one of those magical days where we did nearly everything right,” said Larson. “The conditions were hard on all the teams. Even when we weren’t doing so good, the guys kept on pushing for every boat length here and there on the race course. We probably had some extra luck with some of the bigger wind shifts, but we also put ourselves in some good spots. The team’s boat-handling was superb in the tight situations.”

Alinghi’s performance was the perfect way to bounce back from its capsize the previous day, from which the crew and boat had emerged unscathed.

The only two teams to take a race off the Swiss team were Team ENGIE winning race four and then Spindrift fending off Alinghi in the eighth and final race of the day.

Sailing Cup Kiel standings (day two): 1 Alinghi (11 pts), 2 Spindrift racing (23), 3 Sultanate of Oman (24), 4 Team ENGIE (28), 5 Armin Strom Sailing Team (36).