Muscat: Oman’s Star Sailors League team claimed a stunning victory on the final day of competition on Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland.
After the first two days, SSL Team Oman sat last place in the group with a one-point penalty for late registration but two wins on Golden Day, where the final two races carry double points, saw the ‘Lions of the Sea’ overtake Mexico, Guatemala and Cuba, themselves receiving a similar one-point penalty, to top the group and qualify for the SSL Gold Cup 2022 Finals Series in Bahrain in October.
SSL Team Oman produced an aggressive display in the first race of the day, timing their attack to perfection in the final downwind leg and forcing SSL Team Cuba into a costly double-gybe that proved decisive. Cuba finished second, ahead of Guatemala with Mexico in fourth. The result meant that the final race of the weekend turned into a winner-takes-all clash for the qualification places.
Oman made it two wins from two in a dramatic finish. In second place behind Cuba at halfway, which would have seen both teams qualify, the competitive spirit took over and both teams took turns in attacking each other to try and seize victory. The Omani team went for gold on the final approach, forcing Cuba to tack out wide and surrender the lead with SSL Guatemala lurking dangerously behind.
While the Cuban team protested, the Guatemalans closed in, and briefly it looked like their dream of qualification was over but before it was too late, SSL Team Cuba found their composure to deny the Guatemala on the finishing line.
Musab Al Hadi, SSL Team Oman Helmsman, said, “As I said before, the racing hasn’t ended until we get a first, and we get the firsts today. This is a big achievement for my team, well done to the crew because they have done their job very well. Now we’ll get ready to go to Bahrain!”
Skippered by Nasser Al Mashari, the team of Ali Al Balushi, Ahmed Al Hasni, Abdul Rahman Al Mashari, Yasir Al Rahbi, Musab Al Hadi, Raad Al Hadi, Haitham Al Wahaibi, Waleed Al Kindi, Akram Al Wahaibi and Husain Al Jabri, along with team administrator Marwa Al Khaifi will now prepare for the SSL Gold Cup Final Series which begins on 28 October at the new Water City Garden development project, in front of the iconic Manama City skyline.
Star Sailors League, a World Sailing Special Event, was created by sailors for sailors and is the ultimate challenge between sailing nations. Held in the Kingdom of Bahrain from 28 October to 20 November 2022, the SSL Gold Cup Finals Series follows a similar format to the FIFA World Cup where groups of four teams face each other and the top two teams advance to the next round.
Forty nations start the competition, including the World’s Top 23 Sailing nations plus 16 teams coming from the Qualifying Series – held between May and July 2022 - and host nation Bahrain, all racing on the exact same boat, the SSL47, a 14-metre performance racing boat. The Finals Series in October will see an initial 16 teams race in four Groups, with the top two being joined in the next round by high-ranking teams that have already qualified for the Last 16, Final 8 and Quarter Finals.