The Royal Navy of Oman will line up at this year’s EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2015 for the third successive year, and despite being amateur racers, the team of serving Naval Officers are ready to take the challenge against some of the world’s best sailors. Armed with detailed knowledge of local waters and conditions the team aims to use this race as a way to train young Omani sailors to represent the Sultanate across the globe.
The team will be skippered by Lieutenant Omar Salim Al Ismaili, an accomplished tall ships sailor who was navigator of the Royal Navy of Oman’s new fully rigged ship Shabab Oman in its first journey to Europe in 2013. He has taken over the reigns from Abdul Aziz Al Hussaini, team manager for this year’s event.
“You put our guys alongside the world champions who take part in his race and they would be considered novices, but they are proud and excited to take part and have been phoning me all year asking when the training for the race starts. We know our level, so would expect to finish somewhere in the middle of the fleet this year. Omar the skipper has done a lot of sailing and operations in the Arabian Gulf, so he knows the waters well and we expect to learn a lot from the other teams.”
Preparations were interrupted in November when an ice storm in Mussanah damaged their Farr 30 racing yacht, but the crew showed great determination to be ready for the 2015 race. After two demanding months of repair and replacement work, they are back in action with hopes and expectations higher than ever, and expect to attract a lot of attention at each of the eight world class marinas they stop at along the way.
“The boat was ready to go, all shiny and branded but it fell over in the storm and it took us two months to repair the damage and get back into shape so our training has been delayed,“ explained team manager, who skippered the Navy boat last year,” Al Hussaini explains.
“Wherever we go, we get a lot of support – everyone is proud of the Omani teams. They are proud to see us picking up the sport and practicing it. Whether it is individuals, or companies or government departments – everyone is very proud of us and support us with whatever we need. For all of us, it is not about the results, it is about maintaining the sport. The team is enthusiastic and improving with every race.”
“The winds are mostly north-north westerly so with this new course from Muscat to Manama, we will be facing the winds for most of the route making it slower and a bit more difficult. It will take a lot of physical effort from the teams. It would mean a lot to win a leg and we will do our best. We learned a lot last year and are very excited to be going again. I think we will be better this year.”
EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2015, a unique sailing challenge over 700 nautical miles and 15 days, has been refreshed this year with a dramatic change in the route. After the opening stage from Muscat to Sohar, teams will set sail for Ras Al Khaimah, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, as well as Qatar and Bahrain, in identical Farr 30 racing yachts.
Reigning champions EFG Bank (Monaco) and Delft Challenge, representing the Netherlands, have already been confirmed for the event with more teams to be announced in the coming weeks.
Royal Navy of Oman – crew list:
- Omar Salim Al Ismaili
- Mahfoudh Al Zarafi
- Mubarak Al Farsi
- Mohammed Al Lahori
- Mahmoud Al Shizawi
- Mohammed Al Alawi
- Training sessions – 11-14th February, Muscat
- Leg 1 – 15th February, Muscat – Sohar
- Leg 2 – 17th February, Sohar – RAK
- Leg 3 – 19th February, RAK – Dubai
- Leg 4 – 23rd February, Dubai – Abu Dhabi
- Leg 5 – 24th February, Abu Dhabi – Doha
- Leg 6 – 26th February, Doha – Manama