It’s Just Like College Sailing, Except…

In-shore venues and short courses make for great spectating, but more stress onboard Oman Air during Act 1 of the Extreme Sailing Series.
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ESS Blog 6

Flying into the finish in front of the race village. Lloyd Images

Will, our headsail trimmer and resident X40 vet, continually warned us about the tight nature of the short course racing in store for us during the regatta. Despite a couple weeks of training and hours watching footage from previous seasons, I had no idea just how close the racing would be until the first day of the event was over.

With in-shore venues and tiny courses, spectating is phenomenal, but the stress-factor onboard is also increased. Just like the shifty, short style of racing espoused by the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association, there is a lot of pressure on the start and first beat. 

On Day 1, Team Oman Air largely avoided traffic, and started clean and out front. This led to less stress around the racecourse, as the top two boats often have an opportunity to extend early on. However, on the second and third days of Act 1, we had a tougher time starting, and experienced firsthand what it felt like to get ping-ponged between 3rd and 7th place on each leg. Often we found ourselves approaching the first weather mark unsure if we were beating 2 boats or 6 boats, just like college sailing! Except, instead of 420s and FJs, we were sailing 40-foot catamarans that go faster than the wind.

Extreme Sailing Series 2012. Act 1.Oman Day 3 of racing close to the shore.The Wave Muscat. Credit: Lloyd Images Mark Lloyd

Close racing in Oman. Photo: Lloyd Images


The latter half of Day 2 and the entirety of Day 3 were comprised of reaching starts. These posed a new and difficult challenge for us, and our first few did not come as easily as the more traditional upwind starts had on Day 1.

Still, thanks to Will’s early and persistent warnings, we knew there’d be tough moments and worse races. Morgan and Charlie did a phenomenal job of staying relaxed and not getting hung up on mistakes or bad luck. When our starts were suffering, the team was quick to readjust and implement new strategies. To get out of traffic, we tried a port-tack start that led to a top finish and helped get us back on top of our game. (That particular port-tack start also led to a very close duck with very little mainsheet ease, which led to a near-capsize on top of the committee boat and a near-vertical climb up the tramp for me… but hey, my Dad always said close only counts in horseshoes).

A happy spectator on Day 3. Photo: Lloyd Images


We came ashore after the penultimate day of racing a little frustrated and a little banged up, but mostly happy just to find ourselves within striking distance of the top spot. All along it was clear that it would come down to the final day of racing, and we were well-positioned to have fate in our own hands entering the last races. It was clear that it would be an all-out fight for first place for at least 3 boats, if not half the fleet, and that battle would come down to the wire. With that knowledge, there was little for us to do but wait for the racing to start on Day 4.

Stay tuned for a recap of Day 4!