Finding happiness on water

There is a glint in his eyes and a smile on his face as he looks at Lake Garda from the terrace of Fraglia Vela Riva, one of the oldest sailing clubs in Italy, in Riva del Garda.

The spectacular setting of Italy’s most popular and largest lake is known to test sailors’ skill and patience and it is this challenge on water that Oman’s most experienced sailing racer, Nasser al Mashari, loves to take it on.

The 36 year old has been challenging and winning races on water for different teams as a bowman since 2010, a year after he began his sailing career with Oman Sail.

Having sailed and competed with some of the biggest names in the world of sailing, Mashari is grateful to Oman Sail for providing him the platform that has seen him grow as a top-notch sailor and has made his presence felt in the world of catamaran racing.

A winner of the now non-existent Extreme Sailing Series (ESS) overall title with The Wave, Muscat in 2015, Mashari has moved to the latest generation of catamaran racing in the superfast hydrofoiling GC32s and is set to turn another glorious chapter in his career if he can be part of Oman Air’s title win in the ongoing GC32 Racing Tour Championship.

Ahead of the penultimate round of the Tour in Lake Garda for Riva Cup, Oman Air was in overall lead along with Swiss team, Alinghi.

A good run for Oman Air, led by skipper Adam Minoprio, and his crew of Pete Greenhalgh, Mashari, Stewart Dodson and Adam Piggott, will set it on course for a battle royal on home waters with Alinghi in the final leg in Muscat in November.

In an exclusive chat with Muscat Daily at the beautiful Lake Garda, Mashari began by saying that ‘happiness is me on water’ and ‘happiness is when I win races’ and ‘happiness is watching Oman’s flag being raised on podiums’.

“I want to be remembered as a good sailor and the victories for my team along with my personal milestones are all because of the trust Oman Sail has put in me.

“Oman Sail has achieved a lot over the past ten years and to provide us [Omani sailors] a platform to rub shoulders and work with some of the biggest names in the world of sailing is a dream come true for us.

“I have had the opportunity to work closely with legendary and decorated names like Ben Ainslie, Leigh McMillan, Morgan Larson, Loick Peyron, Cedric Pouligny, Phil Robertson and Adam Minoprio.”

On his experiences with the sailing legends, he said, “Each one has a different personality and a different approach to a situation. So, in a way, I have been lucky to share their views and learn from them a lot. But one thing that is common - they are intense and nothing less than a win satisfies them. I have learned how to achieve success working with them.”

Mashari said that ‘Oman Sail is on the right track with racing teams’ as the Omani sailors have brought in good number of laurels over the past decades.

“We have been participating at world-class regattas and have achieved results. The Omani sailors are working hard to match with the rest of the top-class sailors as they have much more experience than us,” he said.

Mashari, who is one of the senior-most Omani sailors, is confident that the Oman Sail schools programme along with the youth programme will succeed in producing good sailors in future who could compete at the top-level.

“Things take time and we can’t expect results soon. We have been into an organised set-up and competitive racing for only ten years. Yes, we have grown and will continue to grow but results at the top will take time,” said the Muscat-based sailor.

Mashari said that all-Omani crews are now competing in some of the toughest regattas and though ‘it may take time to have a full-fledged all-Omani crew in GC32 Championship there are other classes where all-Omani crews will prove their mettle.’

Mashari said he is open to the idea of taking up a role of skipper but doesn’t think that it would be happening in near future and that too with an all-Omani crew.

“I am open to taking up the role of skipper but we will have to have the right group of young sailors. It would take time. We will need to pick talent with the right skills and when they gain experience maybe we can launch one team. But we have to take it step by step.”

Mashari said that the biggest joy during his years of sailing has been the learning process and ‘it is a continuous thing’.

“The joy of learning makes me go stronger and stronger. Competing against the best and watching the Oman flag being raised on podiums is something I always dream of. I am thankful to Oman Sail and my teammates to make this happen,” the sailor remarked.

Turning a bit philosophical, Mashari, said, “Victory doesn’t come easy. One has to work very hard and I believe that nothing comes easy. To host the GC32 trophy in Muscat in November will be something I would give everything and I hope to win it.”

Mashari, who began his sports career as a national team swimmer before moving to Oman Sail in 2009, said, “I am happy whenever I am on water. That is something I look forward to when I wake up daily.”

On the low moments, he said, “At times, we do well but bad luck strikes us and that leads to a loss is when I feel bad the most.”

Asked why there were few Omani racing sailors, he said that there have been in the past but then they moved on to different classes.

“From Khamis al Anbouri, who won the Extreme Sailing Series overall title in 2010 to Hashim al Rashdi and Musab al Hadi on board the victorious The Wave, Muscat to Raad al Hadi, they all have been part of the racing teams. They have moved on to different fields and classes while I have stayed as I enjoy this class the most and I still have the desire to achieve more, he said.

“For me, it is water and teamwork during races that serves as a fuel to my passion and life and I would like to continue till I could. Once I finish my competitive racing, then I wish to give it back to the youth of Oman and would like to train them become world-class sailors,” Mashari said as he left for waters for yet another day of racing. After all, it is where he finds happiness.

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