The Wave, Muscat (left) and Oman Air in action during Act 6 of the Extreme Sailing Series in Istanbul, Turkey on Saturday

The tankers and cargo ships on one of the world’s busiest shipping channels, the Bosphorus Strait, were replaced on Saturday morning with the sight of a fleet of Extreme 40 boats as traffic was shut down for a passage race right through the heart of Istanbul, Turkey on the penultimate day of Act 6 of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series (ESS).

The defending champion, The Wave, Muscat, held onto the advantage it had as leader going into Saturday’s racing, despite failing to pick up any point in race six for not completing a starting penalty.

Closing down the gap with The Wave, Muscat’s crew, with two crucial races wins, was skipper Dean Barker and his crew on Emirates Team New Zealand.

Oman Air continued to ride on its impressive form, as it clung on to the third place. But the Oman Sail team is chased by a revitalised Alinghi, as it finished in fourth place, just three points behind.

Leigh McMillan, the skipper of The Wave, Muscat, said, “We want to go out on the final day and concentrate on the racing. We are neck and neck with Emirates Team New Zealand, so it should be exciting.”

The bigger breeze took its toll on all the sailors with fatigue levels rising as the day wore on. “It was very breezy, very athletic out there,” said Oman Air skipper Rob Greenhalgh.

“The last few races were a war of attrition, but our speed was great and our boat handling was good. We had some good starts, some not so good, but overall we are happy with our day.”

Oman Air’s Hashim al Rashdi said, “The conditions in Istanbul have helped us to put in a good performance so far. Over the last days, our motivation has been growing and confidence in our ability is good – we are hopeful of maintaining third position.”

The fleet couldn’t have asked for better conditions for Saturday afternoon’s racing, with 20 knots on the course that saw the teams muscle their Extreme 40s around the track – at times on the edge of control. Keeping it clean, staying out of the scraps at the marks and timing the starts perfectly was key, and the team that made the most of day’s racing was Groupama Sailing Team.

The French started in 12th place, but two race wins and the fastest average boat speed – matched only by JP Morgan BAR at 13.77 knots – saw the French crew end the day with an impressive fifth-place finish.

Standings [after Day 3]: 1 The Wave, Muscat (149 pts), 2 Emirates Team New Zealand (147), 3 Oman Air (133), 4 Alinghi (130), 5 Groupama Sailing Team (112), 6 Red Bull Sailing Team (112), 7 JP Morgan BAR (110), 8 SAP Extreme Sailing Team (105), 9 GAC Pindar (101), 10 Realteam (100), 11 Gazprom Team Russia (89), 12 TeamTurx (72).