Sailing: Oman Sail Optimist team take on record-breaking international fleet in Thailand

Sports Sunday 16/July/2017 13:45 PM
By: Times News Service
Sailing: Oman Sail Optimist team take on record-breaking international fleet in Thailand

Muscat: The Oman Sail Optimist team have seized a great opportunity to gain experience in testing conditions at the Optimist World Championship in Thailand. The five-strong squad of youngsters – all members of the Omantel Youth Programme – are in the midst of eight days of racing at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Pattaya. The event has attracted a record-breaking 281 sailors from 62 countries.
For the young Omani team - Al Moatasem Al Farsi, Alla Saleh Al Amrani, Mohammed Al Alawi, Mohammed Al Qasmi and Samiha Al Riyami, the only girl – the World Championship offers essential insights into the challenges of top-flight yacht racing.
“It is a massive fleet and a completely new environment, but it is a great opportunity for them,” said Youth Programme Manager Mohsin Al Busaidi. “The Optimist class is preparing them for real life basically.
“In Oman we do not have a variety of sailing conditions so we need to travel to allow our sailors to experience different environments, light conditions and strong wind conditions, and understand all the different aspects of sailing to be ready for future events. Eventually the aim is for them to become Olympic or good offshore sailors.”
In the opening two days of racing there were encouraging signs with Al Farsi, the most experienced sailor in the team, coming 21st and 28th in one of the four fleets each consisting of 70 competitors. Also in the early races the energetic Al Qasmi, who shone in the pre-Worlds training in Quiberon, France, posted 35th and 36th place finishes among his results, while Al Alawi was 41st in two races, each in their respective fleets.
Al Riyami demonstrated further potential with a strong mid-fleet finish when she finished 36th in one of her races, while Al Amrani’s best early result was a 46th place finish.
Strong tides and currents, and a dropping breeze towards the end of the first day, had produced some challenging conditions, but all providing valuable lessons according to Koray Ezer, Oman Sail’s Head of Performance.
“Everything they do is part of the game, part of their learning,” he said. “It can be a big shock to be out on the race course with so many sailors. It is also a psychological thing and they need to learn how to be relaxed, to eat well and to sleep well, and cope with dehydration and long hours out on the water waiting for the wind.”
And he added: “It is a promising team. Their coach Abdulaziz Al-Shidi is doing a great job and he put the team together. There is a great spirit and the team really enjoy spending time together – there is a great friendship.
“Samiha is great and a real inspiration for girls that we want to attract into the programme. This will be her last year in Optimists, and hopefully after this event she will have a better view of what kind of sailing she wants to go on to do.
“For Alla, Quiberon was his first training camp abroad, but he caught up with the others quickly. This is his first World Championship and we are looking forward to seeing the best from him as he continues to develop his sailing skills.”
The Optimist class is the recognised gateway to international yacht racing, and a key component in the Omantel Youth Programme. Supported by the telecom company, young sailors are encouraged to take part in the national initiative led by Oman Sail which is aimed at rejuvenating Oman’s maritime heritage while developing sailing talent. Racing in Thailand continues until July 20, with a mix of individual and team racing events.