We went out nice and early last Friday to take in the practice and enjoy some hospitality on board. All of a sudden the boats lined up, and then they were off, racing for glory. The RC44s are all the same, designed by Russell Coutts, who won the America’s Cup as skipper four times. They all have sleek black hulls, and look menacing. They can fly downwind and are powerful upwind.
I wasn’t sure how much we would actually be able to see, but our skipper was determined to get us the best view, and manoeuvred SY Azzura to the prime vantage points. There were three races on the day: The last, in gentler wind, was the easiest to follow - with a close finish, a collision, and a disqualification. It was all very exciting.
The RC44s race against one another at six venues throughout the year, with Muscat hosting the first event for 2013. This year also boasts an all-female crew joining the fleet of 16 boats.
This was the first time I have ever seen this sport in full flow. The speed of the boats, and skill of the crews who can find the best wind whilst avoiding the competition in the process, is most impressive. The marina was full of on-lookers and the whole event proved to be a real treat for those who went along.
There is no doubt that Oman enjoys a close relationship with all things related to the sea. Oman Sail has done a remarkable job in building up interest in sailing over the last few years. There are now Youth and Race clubs at Mussanah Sports City, Marina Bandar Rowdha, and soon at The Wave sailing school. New sailing schools, at venues far and wide, will soon be added to the portfolio.
Several thousands of people have enjoyed introductions to sailing from Oman Sail. Their dual language Facebook and Twitter sites have a multitude of followers. And Oman Sail boats took the top two places last year in the worldwide Extreme Series. This is undoubtedly a great success story for the sultanate.
Sailing, and the business opportunities that go with it, has every chance to grow into a sustainable and long-term asset for Oman. I hope that the energy of the youth can be channelled into
realising the potential that exists, whether it is in racing, teaching, recreation, or tourism. Sailing provides a wonderful opportunity to do something both challenging and rewarding, with that degree of excitement to spice up even the quietest of days.