It’s hard to find a better example of how sailing can be used to teach, inspire and aid development than Oman Sail. With a bit of political will and a long term vision that incorporates legacy factors, the sport of sailing can drive skills development, self esteem, national pride, technology transfer and tourism. In just 2 years, the project has proved that elite competition can drive grass-roots interest and that without the restrictions of ‘old fashioned yacht clubs’, sailing can be attractive and accessible.
Yesterday in Paris, the CEO of Oman Sail, David Graham hosted a press conference in Paris to talk about the competition that the Oman Sail team would be involved with in France in 2010. The Tour de France à la Voile, the Route du Rhum and the French leg of the Extreme Sailing Series Europe competition are the visible, billboard part of Oman Sail, but behind the competition lies a commitment to develop seven sailing schools across Oman ove the next 5 years and create an enduring capability to inspire, teach and coach young Omanis to be able to succeed in the field of maritime endeavour.
Nearly two years old, the project has already achieved a number of successes. In March 2009, Mohsin Al Busaidi became the first Omani and Arab to sail non-stop around the world on the trimaran Musandam (previously Ellen MacArthur’s Castorama/ B&Q). This was a source of huge national pride back home and inspiration to the youth. This success was soon followed by two Omani Extreme 40 entries taking both the European and Asian Extreme Sailing Series Circuits by storm with a double win on their boat Masirah and coming third and second respectively on the second Oman boat Renaissance / The Wave, Muscat. After two years as apprentices, two Omanis became full time sailors in the Asian circuit and Nasser Al Massari will now be moving over from the Extreme 40 circuit to the Omani Tour de France à la Voile team to share his expertise with the new Omani trainees.
With huge success on the international arena, back in Muscat the first of the Oman sailing schools was opened in mid-2009 and this now focuses on a double mission of forming an elite squad that is qualified to compete in international races at a high standard and secondly in developing a school and community sailing programme to give Omanis an opportunity to try the sport for themselves. The school now has six Omani instructors and three international coaches and consists of forty sailing dinghies and small sporting catamarans.
After two gruelling selection processes, the elite squad now consists of forty full-time Omani sailors learning to sail at a high standard and four hundred and fifty school children have already taken part in a six-week training course once a week after school that now enables them to sail safely on their own in light winds. A second sailing school will be opened later this year outside the capital Muscat, with a further five schools opening along the coast by 2015.
We’ll be covering the Paris announcements in more detail over coming days, but you can read the full story at the OMAN SAIL website