Mussanah Race Week 2012: Women making waves on second day of racing

16 March, 2012

Photo by Lloyd Images.


The second day of racing in Mussanah Race Week saw perfect conditions for the sailing fleets, including the newly formed national windsurfing team. The women’s sailing team was also on the water and posting some very strong results.

With the addition of 53 new boats in the shape of RS Q’bas, a bigger fleet set sail yesterday morning in the ‘Red Fleet’ to take advantage of the building breeze and to try and improve on their results from Wednesday. Consisting of the younger sailors, mostly from schools who take part in the Try Sailing programme, the ‘Red Fleet’ sailed three races before a lunch break. A large number of the sailors are young Omani girls and take a lot of inspiration from the older sailors they mix with on shore.

Many of the professional sailors, competing in the ‘Blue Fleet’ are members of the women’s youth sailing programme that was launched at the end of 2011. Soon after announcing the women’s initiative, the Al Thuraya BankMuscat team was formed to take part in Sailing Arabia – The Tour. The all-female team did very well overall and the Omani team members are now sailing in Mussanah Race Week. Shatha Al Zadjali is the manager of the women’s programme and has been watching the young girls of the ‘Red Fleet’ closely as well as supporting the girls sailing in the ‘Blue Fleet’. ‘Mussanah Race Week is turning into a very important event for the Omani girls who are learning to sail boats and race competitively. Not only are they benefiting from the coaching, they are out sailing in fleets with their peers and the learning curve is very sharp. The strong winds are making it tougher for them but they are coming back to the marina after sailing with smiles on their faces and fierce determination to come back and improve.’ she said.

All the Omani girls that sailed on Al Thuraya are sailing in Mussanah Race Week and continuing the learning they started during Sailing Arabia – The Tour. ‘When the Tour finished in The Wave, Muscat all the girls stressed how much they enjoyed the experience and wanted to continue sailing. Mussanah Race Week is giving them that opportunity while we continue with their schedule for the women’s programme,’ Shatha continued.

Visitors to Mussanah Marina would not fail to notice a different type of sail in amongst the familiar Laser and Hobie 16 sails. In late 2011 a national windsurfing team was announced and Mussanah Race Week is the first time the three Omani windsurfers have sailed competitively. 19-year-old Faisal Al Qutaiti joined Oman Sail in 2011 and was immediately put into the windsurfing team. ‘We have been training hard with our coach for the past few weeks so it feels really good to be out here racing. The windsurfing class is the fastest class on the water and very fun to sail but they need an exceptional amount of physical fitness and balance to win. I won the third race today by actually beating the coach and, although he is leading the racing, I aim to challenge him tomorrow! I hope that next year we will have more international windsurfers in Mussanah so we can really become world-class standard.’

After a very physical day of sailing in strong winds the ‘Blue Fleet’ returned to shore after sailing three races. It was a good day for the Omani sailors as they used their local knowledge to put pressure on, especially in the very closely fought Laser fleet. Michael Zittlau from Germany continues to dominate the Laser fleet, but he is being pushed hard by Hussain Al Jabri who is holding second place ahead of Ahmed Al Wahaibi. In the Laser Radial fleet Mohammed Al Mashari and Mohammed Al Wahaibi have a strong lead in first and second respectively over Darren De Silva from US. The pairing of Ahmed Al Hasani and Asrar Al Ajmi are leading the Hobie 16 fleet with Sulaiman and Abdullatif Al Wahaibi close behind them. Third place is Hashim Al Rashdi and Kholood Al Kindi. In the ‘Red Fleet’ the Q’ba fleet is being led by a talented young Omani girl, Kawthar Al Habsi. She is closely followed by Said Al Rahbi and Mohammed Al Qasmi. The top two in the Optimist fleet are a family affair with Bashar Al Jabri leading over his sister, Marwan, with Salim Al Alawi in third. The Laser 4.7, similar to the larger Laser with the exception of a smaller sail, has two of the international sailors leading with Dawood Abdullah from Bahrain ahead of Freddie Miller from the UK. In third is one of the female Omani instructors, Ibtisam Al Salmi.

Hussein Al Riyami was on the committee boat with internationally renowned Race Officer, Athanasios Papantoniou, and helping with the race management. He explains the change in conditions between the morning racing and the afternoon, ‘This morning we had to postpone two races because the wind didn’t settle but we eventually managed to start three races. The first two races were very busy at the start as the young sailors tried to get good starts but by the third race they all started very well- a great improvement. By the afternoon the wind had increased and steadied which meant that the Hobie 16 start was very exciting. They go very fast and because the standard of all the Hobie 16 sailors is high, the starts were adrenalin fueled and competitive!’

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