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It's a four-way fight for 2012 crown

Already assured of a podium finish in the overall standings at the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series (ESS), Oman Sail's The Wave, Muscat hopes to end the year in style by winning the eighth and final leg in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and capturing the overall title.

Skippered by Briton Leigh McMillan, The Wave, Muscat will be up against Oman Air, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild of France and Austria's Red Bull Sailing Team for the overall honours.

The final leg of the sixth edition of the ESS will be held from December 6-9. With a couple of days to go for the start, Rio, one of the host cities for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and home to the 2016 Olympics, is all set to welcome the nine international teams that will compete in the scenic surroundings of the Copacabana beach.

The final leg will also witness the participation of Team Brasil, which joins the regular eight teams. The wild-card entry will see Brazil’s most successful Olympian, Torben Grael, skippering the crew. Torben has five Olympic medals to his credit, including two golds. He will be joined by his son Marco and his brother Lars Grael, the latter also a holder of two Olympic medals. Over the seven legs of the 2012 series, 179 races have taken place and there are 32 more to go.

For the four teams in the hunt for the overall trophy, 15 points will be up for grabs in Rio. McMillan’s The Wave, Muscat is atop the leaderboard with 61.5 points and has stayed ahead since winning the second leg in Qingdao, China. McMillan, skipper of The Wave, Muscat, said, “It would be easy enough to mess things up, so we have to push hard as we have done all year. The reality is that we don’t want to go out with a bit of a negative [approach], and just do it. We want to continue the form that we’ve had all year and have a good last event.”

Oman Air's American skipper Morgan Larson, on his debut year in the ESS, has clinched victories in Muscat and Cardiff, Wales, to steer the team to second place on 53 points. Speaking ahead of the final leg, Larson said, "We are 100 per cent focussed on continuing our growth as a team and in the boat. It would take a miracle to win the season, so our goal is to perform at our best in every race in Rio and see how things unfold."

Groupe Edmond skipper Pierre Pennec, who put his team back in the fray in the previous leg in Nice, France, with a home win, is on No 3 with 51 points, while Red Bull is in fourth place with 48.5 points. Pennec said, “We have good momentum after our victory in Nice in October. We will try to build on this momentum. But the goal is to work on the whole series, round after round, without too much focus on the general classification.

Our main rivals are Oman Air and Red Bull.” Red Bull skipper Roman Hagara is aware of what is at stake. “We are not going to be looking at the other teams and will focus on our own performance,” he said. “We have analysed our disappointing result from Nice [where the team finished sixth] and we have to fight back in Rio."

The action begins on December 6 with open-water racing by the Copacabana beach, following which it moves to the competition mode for the next three days. 2012 overall results [after 7 legs]: 1 The Wave, Muscat (61.5 pts), Oman Air (53), Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (51), Red Bull Sailing Team (48.5), GAC Pindar (39.5), SAP Extreme Sailing Team (33), Alinghi (28), ZouLou (23.5).

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