Back to the Middle East

We look at the new Oman Sail campaign that kicked off last weekend on the iShares Cup circuit
While Qatar may have been the buzzword in sailing two or three years ago, over the next few years expect it to be Oman. The giant Sultanate to the east of the UAE, Saudi and Yemen has 2000km of coastline facing the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian sea and at a time when young Omanis seem to prefer spending their money on 4X4s and speedboats, the Sultan, Qaboos bin Said Al Said, and the government are intent on revitalising their country's maritime heritage, creating role models for their youth as well as promoting Oman as a tourist destination. Central to their plan to achieve this is a massive sailing initiative. And so we caught a first glimpse of this last weekend in Lake Lugano where a red Oman-branded Extreme 40 was competing in the iShares Cup, with a posse of familiar Brits on board - Olympic 49er bronze medallist Chris Draper steering, Team GBR's Athens Tornado rep Mark Bulkeley calling tactics, Pete Cumming and Freddie Carr plus two young Omanis, Abdullah al Busaidi and Ahmed al Maamari who were swapping in and out of the fifth man slot. Pete Cumming, who we know best as a long term shore crew for Mike Golding's Ecover Open 60 campaign, is effectively managing this OC Group-inspired project, which, incredibly, has come together in just three weeks. Originally Cumming had teamed up with Chris Draper (the two raced together on Louis Brown's Asterix winning the Mumm 30 Europeans) to campaign the iShares Cup with an undisclosed British owner. They acquired a new Marstrom boat and went out two boating against BMW Oracle Racing in Valencia only for the main forward beam (supporting the mast) to fail. "The main front beam sheered at the windward hull," recounts Cummings. "We lost the rig. It was