One of the the themes at the World Yacht Racing Forum last week was that sailing’s new audiences are probably not in Europe or America. Just as F1 is moving slowly east, so too are yacht racing’s innovators including the World Match Racing Tour, Extreme Asia Series and Volvo Ocean Race.
Though it seems more and more unlikely that RAK will host the next America’s Cup, sailing in the Middle East is attracting more attention. Last week, while we were at the World Yacht Racing Forum (WYRF), we overlooked this story about Bank of Beirut sponsoring the Muscat Regatta.
Many at the WYRF commented about the opportunities that sailing provided to network with people that would otherwise be impossible to connect with. Guests at the Muscat Regatta included Hamad Said Al Oufi, undersecretary of Ministry of Fisheries as guest of honour. Also present was Saleem Al Zawawi, the chairman of Marina Bandar Al Rowdha, and the managing director of Bank of Beirut Remy Zambarakji, as well as representatives from the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Sports Affairs.
There was also a tourism and development element to the event. Building on the strength of the Oman Sail project, other in Oman, including Marina Bandar Al Rowdha are delivering the same message.
Saleem Al Zawawi said:
“We at Marina Bandar Al Rowdha feel that it is high time that Oman, as a Maritime nation with a sea-faring tradition going back over hundreds of years, has its own blue-water yacht race. The planned Muscat Regatta which was held here is the result of over a year of hard work and will fulfil the aspirations of many Omani and expatriate sailors.”
The regatta is held under the auspices of the Ministry of Sports Affairs and the Ministry of Tourism and will be managed by a British firm of International repute – GWM Racing Limited.
Remy Zambarakji, managing director of Bank of Beirut, Oman said of the decision to sponsor the Regatta:
“The bank’s aim is to support this exciting sport and take it one step forward to become an international race. We are certain that the Regatta in general, and specifically the Muscat-Khasab race will be a great success, and we are very proud of our sponsorship and involvement, especially considering the fact that Muscat and Beirut share centuries of maritime heritage together”.
The recent successes of Oman Sail on the European circuit has fired the imagination of many young Omanis wanting to sail and according to Al Zawawi, building a competitive platform for these young sailors is something very important to all involved in Muscat Regatta 2009.
“We are helping to build the national sailing teams of tomorrow in hosting this event, providing them with an important opportunity for competition to hone their newly acquired skills. The Muscat Regatta now has the potential and the financial support to become not just a regional event, but also an international one – attracting yachts from all over the world.” Al Zawawi concluded.