Ex-B&Q to go around the world again
Ellen MacArthur was an official guest in Muscat for the launch, to wish the project well, and explain to the audience what it means to sail around the planet and the tough challenges ahead: "Oman Sail is a project with a great heart and serious aims, and watching the Omani team progress over the past six months of intensive learning has been fantastic. I'm delighted to see my old boat now heading off across the oceans again on a new challenge, she was created for that! I wish the Oman Sail team fair winds and good luck on what remains an extremely difficult challenge - although I'm sure Musandam will look after them," said Ellen.
Mohsin Al Busaidi looks set to be the first ever Omani, as part of a crew of five, to attempt to sail at high speed the gruelling 23,000 miles around the planet from Muscat to Muscat, on board Musandam. If successful, the crew of Musandam will join a select group of people who have circumnavigated the globe non-stop - a challenge that fewer people have completed than have climbed Everest or been in to Space. Mohsin Al Busadi will join professional French sailors Loik Gallon (skipper) and Thierry Duprey and British sailors Charles Darbyshire and Nick Houchin - both Loick and Charles were involved with Ellen's successful trimaran programme in 2003-2006 including the round the world record attempt as establishing a series of new record times throughout Asia.
Moshsin commented: "I am deeply honoured to have been selected to represent Oman on this first attempt to race around the world. Success is by no means certain, but we promise to give it our very best to make our country proud every step of the way. I can't comprehend how cold the Southern Ocean will be, but the warmth of Oman will remain in our hearts and keep us strong on journey onboard Musandam."
The Oman Sail project was officially launched today in Muscat, by Her Excellency, The Minister of Tourism Dr Rajhia bint Abdulamir bin Ali. The project is already a success this year in terms of supporting the marketing of Oman as one of the few remaining unspoilt destinations. Her Excellency explained: "Oman Sail is a long term initiative created to inspire a new generation of young Omanis to take up sailing as recreation and as competitive sport, to restore Oman's maritime eminence through competing at international level, as well as supporting the development of events to support professional sailing in the Arabian Peninsula."
Her Excellency who launched the project stated: "Oman Sail is an audacious and challenging long-term project to inspire our youth and to allow our friends outside of the Sultanate to learn more about our magnificent country. Set against a proud history and a rich maritime heritage, it is our nature to accept new challenges and adventures."
Oman Sail's dream is a big one, and it will take a decade or more to build this new capability for the Omani team to compete at top-level competitions, and is part of the plan to drive interest in young Omanis to step onboard.
The transfer of knowledge from an international team of professional sailors is well underway, and the Oman Sail Race Team will become progressively more and more Omani with time - in ocean racing, and in the cauldron of high level inshore professional racing, as well as in the Oman Sail Academy for younger sailors. Aspiring, one day, to create champions in Asian and Olympic level competitions.
In conjunction with the launch, and fresh from Act 1 of the Arabian Extreme 40 Challenge at Mina Seyahi, Dubai, Oman Sail, supported by Partner Oman Air, are hosting the second 3-day 'Act' in this ground-breaking exhibition event - the first time these hi-tech professionally sailed racing machines have competed in the (GCC) region. Each of the four boats competing includes two sailors from the Oman Sail Race Team, in their first ever competitive regatta as crew.
Shirley Robertson OBE, double Olympic Gold medallist and skipper of Oman Air for this event, has been impressed by the Omani sailors: "It is great to see a new nation sailing, my Omani crew are so motivated to learn, I am really looking forward to this next event." The Oman Air Challenge will be raced off Muscat over 2-4 December.
Following the first initial recruitment that pulled the eight current team members from a pool of 40 in a tough selection process, the second phase of the Oman Sail recruitment will start in January, feeding young Omanis in to the Academy, and talented sailors on to the Oman Sail Race Team. The Academy aims also to develop marine industry skills and the infrastructure to create a sustainable future for sailing of all kinds in Oman.
In 2009, Oman Sail will continue to race in the European iShares Cup Extreme 40 circuit, as well complete the construction of a new One Design 105ft ocean racing trimaran. Further details of this new boat will be released in the coming weeks.