Muscat: Oman Sail’s pioneering programme, SailFree, has won gold for the Best Sports Event CSR Initiative category at the prestigious Middle East Sports Industry Awards 2023 (SPIA). Launched in 2019 and delivered in partnership with bp Oman and the Oman Paralympic Association, SailFree is the first programme of its kind in the region and has introduced over 500 people with disabilities to the sport and provided a positive model to follow for an inclusive society.
The programme has proven that sailing can have a long-term positive impact on the lives of people with disabilities. By discovering a newfound sense of freedom through sailing and unlocking valuable life skills through learning, teamwork and participation. SailFree has provided the framework for people with no prior sailing experience to learn, develop and compete internationally, as well as training coaches to empower people with disabilities and ensure sailing can be a safe sport for all.
In 2022, SailFree won its first gold medal and helped to bring the first exclusively Para Sailing event to Oman at the RS Venture Connect World Championship at Barceló Mussanah Resort in 2022.
Following the award ceremony held at the Atlantis, The Palm Hotel in Dubai, Dr Khamis Al Jabri, Oman Sail CEO, said, “This is an incredible achievement for all of Oman and shows the potential for a fully inclusive society. Oman Sail, along with the support of our partners bp Oman and the Oman Paralympic Association, has shown that sport can break barriers and help people with disabilities to overcome obstacles. We are very proud to win this award and show the positive impact that SailFree has had. The programme proves that there is a bright future in Oman for Para Sport, and within the community as part of our national development goals as we help to create opportunities for all.”
Shamsa Al Rawahi, social performance manager for Oman, UAE, Kuwait, and Iraq commented, “Since its launch, the SailFree programme has shown that sailing can be a safe sport for everybody. It has shown our communities that with resilience, empowerment and building self-confidence, we can all fulfil our upmost potential. We are incredibly proud to have the programme be recognized for its diversity and inclusion efforts within our communities in the field of sports.”
Dr Mansoor Al Tauqi, President of the Oman Paralympic Committee, said, “The advances that sailing has made to provide training on and off the water and competition both at home and abroad shows the potential for para sport in Oman. SailFree has opened up new opportunities for people with disabilities all across Oman and as the programme grows, we look forward to generations of young people having the opportunity to represent or nation on the water. The possibilities that SailFree offers shows the value in learning transferable life skills and how to improve as individuals, both of which are important attributes that transcend sport.”
SailFree is a valuable project that goes beyond sport to contribute to 10 of the 12 National Priorities outlined in Oman Vision 2040. SailFree’s activities promote education, learning and research, as well as developing national capabilities, improving health and wellbeing, and national identity. It also supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with SailFree providing meaningful contributions to 10 of the 17 targets. The SDGs are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all and the 17 goals tie directly into Oman’s Vision 2040.
SailFree also projects strong environmental and social message. Members of the programme take an active role in Oman Sail’s ongoing mission to preserve the country’s beaches and oceans, while also encouraging leadership, cooperation, and sustainable development for the long-term prosperity of the nation. At the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships 2022, held in Muscat, 10 para sailors from SailFree volunteered to support the event and welcome athletes to Oman, and members of the squad frequently support Oman Sail’s efforts to enrich the local community.
The impact of SailFree will be felt throughout international Para Sailing. Four therapists from the Al Amal Occupational Therapy & Rehab Centre at the Armed Forces Hospital are currently pursuing qualifications to become International Classifiers which will help more people with disabilities discover the sport and compete internationally. There are currently only 11 international classifiers worldwide, and by adding a further four Oman can make a significant contribution to the growth of the sport as World Sailing, the global governing body for sailing, national sailing federations and sailors worldwide focus on securing reinstatement to the Paralympic Games.
The SPIA Awards are organised annually by Sport 360X and recognise the achievements of the sporting industry across the Middle East in 18 categories. For more information, please visit https://spiame.com/.