#OmanPride: Brave Omani women take sailing challenges in stride

More sports Wednesday 02/March/2016 21:17 PM
By: Times News Service
#OmanPride: Brave Omani women take sailing challenges in stride

Muscat: For three women, a life of adventure at sea was a dream come true and being one of the very few Omani women to take on the challenge of sailing death defying and unpredictable routes in open waters made it even
more exciting.
OmanPride features three young Omani sailors, Ibtisam Al Salmi, Tamadher Al Balushi and Marwa Al Khaifi, who are part of an all-women crew for OAMC’s Al Thuraya team, which took part in EFG Sailing Arabia–The Tour 2016. All the three women have an athletic background and for a couple, sailing was a new experience and opportunity that they took up to quench their thirst for adventure.
“Most of my experience as an athlete was inside sports halls playing basketball; so I thought why not try something new? I then became attracted to sailing,” said Al Balushi, explaining that she is an adventurous type of woman and is always seeking a new experience.
Al Khaifi said she used to play power sports and wanted to try something else. “I’m an adventurous type of girl so I wanted to try something else. By venturing out to sea I gradually started liking it and I love it now,” said Al Khaifi.
Al Salmi has been a sailor with Oman Sail for four and a half years and trumps the other two with sailing experience. Her college studies with the International Maritime College Oman (IMCO) gave her all the knowledge she needed to sail.
“Part of my course was to participate in events. In 2011, I volunteered for an Oman Sail event; I liked the work environment and I’ve been sailing for them since then,” said Al Salmi.
Al Salmi and Al Khaifi have both faced a rather slow acceptance from their families regarding sailing; considering it is a dangerous sport and mainly they are females in a “male sport.”
Al Sami said, “I was part of the first team when the women’s team was created and the idea wasn’t accepted in the beginning. So when I go back home and tell my family about what I’ve done, they slowly started accepting the idea of me sailing and became supportive in the end.”
Similarly, Al Khaifi said, “I tried to convince them that this (sailing) is not as dangerous as they think. Eventually, they saw that I was committed to the sport and had to support me nevertheless.”
Al Balushi did not have to worry about parental acceptance because her father is also an athlete and has given her his blessing to join the sailing team.
Male-dominated field
It is not uncommon for women to be face criticism if they venture into a predominantly male-dominated field whether in sports or otherwise.
Al Salmi said “every sport has its pros and cons” and that “there isn’t a specific aspect of it, which opens it only to men or women.”
“A woman can still produce the effort and commitment she wants in the area she likes,” explained Al Salmi.
Responding to the Times of Oman’s question about the difficulties, in terms of public perception, which they had to handle from the general public, Al Balushi said, “People’s gossip and their criticism; but contrary to that, we feel that we make them proud. We also have to encourage them about these things.
Adding to that statement Al Khaifi said, “We take criticisms positively and it is what motivates us to continue moving forward. We turn negatives into positives.”
Weather and increasing wind speed seem to be the most challenging task the women’s team face while racing in open sea waters.
Due to lesser weight, these sailors find it somewhat difficult to keep the boat from tipping over.
“We are girls and we do face more difficulty while sailing. The more the wind speed increases, the more work we have to do,” said Al Khaifi.
Offering words of encouragement to Omani women, Al Salmi said, “Sailing is an adventure and I encourage other girls, if they have an adventurous spirit, to do what they like and not hesitate. It is always the right time to achieve what you like.”
Al Balushi’s words of advice are “nothing is impossible” and Al Khaifi added to that by saying, “Like she said: nothing is impossible. If girls like sports, not necessarily sailing, they have to look at the positives and not the negatives. They just need to try to turn their ambitions into dreams.”