Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC), the Sultanate’s airport management and operations entity, has announced their support of the all-female Oman Airports-Al Thuraya team in the region’s leading offshore sailing race, EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour.
Speaking about the team, Sheikh Aimen Ahmed Al Hosni, Chief Executive Officer at OAMC said, “It is our privilege and pleasure to support the all-women’s sailing team, Al-Thuraya, in the prestigious EFG Sailing Arabia race. At OAMC, we place immense emphasis on developing all round talents. We are very proud of this team, which will not only hold Oman Airports Management Company’s name, but will represent Oman and highlight the essential role that women play in development and challenge. This is a view we hold strongly at OAMC, inspired by the support His Majesty extends to all Omani women.
The Sultanate is rapidly gaining a reputation as a top sailing destination and a world leader in competitive sailing. We are confident that this GCC-wide initiative will draw attention to the beautiful shores that Oman boasts, and showcase the country as a world class tourist destination. We wish the Al Thuraya team, the brightest of Oman’s stars, the best of luck in the competition. The entire OAMC family will be cheering for them throughout!”.
This year’s edition will see renowned sailor, Dee Caffari, resuming her role as skipper of the team following a four-year absence from The Tour. Caffari who skippered the first women’s entry in EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour in 2012 has more ocean racing miles on her clock than any other woman on the planet, having raced around the world five times – twice on her own, twice with crew and once two -handed.
Dee Caffari is now intent on raising the women’s game in in EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour. Her crew for the 2016 race was carefully selected for that purpose, she explains. “I have got a team together based on who I feel would be able to help the Omani girls develop whilst racing,” said the former PE teacher who took part in the last Volvo Ocean Race on all women’s boat Team SCA. “We are coaching and racing at the same time so it can be quite demanding and we want the Omani girls to feel as if they have moved forwards in their skills and understanding of sailing by the end of the event.”
Some of her crew have sailed with the programme before including Omani sailor Ibtisam Al Salmi, one of the Middle East’s first professional female sailors. “I remember the first event that Ibtisam took part in and she only did the in port races and not the offshore,” recalls Caffari. “Now some years on she is the leader of the group. That shows how far she has come in a short space of time. We also have Marwa Al Khaifi and Tamadher Al Balushi who work as instructors for Oman Sail so they will bring fresh ideas.”
Joining Caffari as fellow coaching and racing experts are Stacey Jackson from Australia, Annemieke Bes from the Netherlands and former Al Thuraya skipper Mary Rook from Great Britain.
With their experience in the Volvo Ocean Race, Extreme Sailing Series, Olympics, Mini Transat and Artemis Academy, the girls on Al Thuraya Women’s Team make for a highly competitive and formidable team but the focus, says Caffari will be on developing skills rather than on results. “It is always testing but so long as the girls continue to learn and try their best all the time I will be happy. Obviously we will be racing to win as there is an incredible competitive spirit within the girl’s team. “The women’s team is all about changing perceptions of women in the Middle East. These girls are out there doing the same thing as the guys, sailing the same boats on the same water in the same conditions. “They are competitive and developing their skills. Their story is about so much more than just a yacht race and sometimes we forget that but these girls are literally moving barriers and changing people’s opinions of Arab women.”
Caffari’s sailing specialism is upwind sailing having completed a record breaking circumnavigation on her own against prevailing winds and tides so leg 2 from Abu Dhabi to Doha is a challenge she is relishing along with the downwind epic on leg 3.
“The change of route really does mix things up a little – it will be interesting and involve some hard upwind sailing to really test the competitors. Leg 2 looks like it will be a long upwind leg and then leg 3 is a really long leg and this will exhaust the girls, so they will have to dig deep to keep going to the end of the race.
“We shall take each day as it comes.”
Earlier this year, Team EFG Bank Monaco, Team Mangold, Dutch team Delft Challenge, Bienne Voile of Switzerland, Averda and Zain announced they are going to participate in the 2016 edition of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour. Kicking off on 15 February in Dubai, the five leg 750 nm challenge offers an opportunity for both professional and amateur racing teams to sustain their training and competition programmes over the winter months and showcase the GCC region as a sailing and sporting destination.