Dee Caffari's return boosts Oman Airports-Al Thuraya Women’s Team

Sports Monday 08/February/2016 17:50 PM
By: Times News Service
Dee Caffari's return boosts Oman Airports-Al Thuraya Women’s Team

Muscat: The Oman Airports-Al Thuraya Women’s Team is back in EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour (SATT), with Dee Caffari resuming her role as skipper following a four-year absence.
Caffari who skippered the first women’s entry in EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour in 2012 has more ocean racing miles on her clock than any other woman on the planet having raced around the world five times - twice on her own, twice with crew and once two-handed.
She is now intent on raising the women’s game in in EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour and driving women’s sailing forward in Oman and the GCC region. Her crew for the 2016 race, who have added Oman Airports Management Company to their growing list of backers, was carefully selected for that purpose, she explains.
“I have got a team together based on who I feel would be able to help the Omani girls develop whilst racing,” said the former PE teacher who took part in the last Volvo Ocean Race on all women’s boat Team SCA.
“We are coaching and racing at the same time so it can be quite demanding and we want the Omani girls to feel as if they have moved forwards in their skills and understanding of sailing by the end of the event.”
Some of her crew have sailed with the programme before including Ibtisam Al Salmi, one of the Middle East’s first professional female sailors.
“I remember the first event that Ibtisam took part in and she only did the in port races and not the offshore,” recalls Caffari.
“Now some years on she is the leader of the group. That shows how far she has come in a short space of time. We also have Marwa Al Khaifi and Tamadher Al Balushi who work as instructors for Oman Sail so they will bring fresh ideas.”
Focus on development
Joining Caffari as fellow coaching and racing experts are Stacey Jackson from Australia, Annemieke Bes from the Netherlands and former Oman Airports-Al Thuraya skipper Mary Rook from Great Britain.
With their experience in the Volvo Ocean Race, Extreme Sailing Series, Olympics, Mini Transat and Artemis Academy, the girls on Oman Airports-Al Thuraya Women’s Team make for a highly competitive and formidable team but the focus, says Caffari will be on developing skills rather than on results.
“It is always testing but so long as the girls continue to learn and try their best all the time I will be happy. Obviously we will be racing to win as there is an incredible competitive spirit within the girl’s team.
“The women’s team is all about changing perceptions of women in the Middle East. These girls are out there doing the same thing as the guys, sailing the same boats on the same water in the same conditions.
“They are competitive and developing their skills. Their story is about so much more than just a yacht race and sometimes we forget that but these girls are literally moving barriers and changing people’s opinions of Arab women.”
Caffari’s sailing specialism is upwind sailing having completed a record breaking circumnavigation on her own against prevailing winds and tides so leg 2 from Abu Dhabi to Doha is a challenge she is relishing along with the downwind epic on leg 3.
“The change of route really does mix things up a little - it will be interesting and involve some hard upwind sailing to really test the competitors. Leg 2 looks like it will be a long upwind leg and then leg 3 is a really long leg and this will exhaust the girls, so they will have to dig deep to keep going to the end of the race.
“We shall take each day as it comes.”