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Oman getting serious about joining elite sailing nations

by Tang Zhe, China Daily on 16 Jun 2013
2013 Extreme Sailing Series Act 3 - The Wave, Muscat, SAP Extreme Sailing Team, Alinghi and GAC Pindar Lloyd Images http://lloydimagesgallery.photoshelter.com/
With the aim of developing Omani sailors, a national initiative called 'Oman Sail' was launched by the country in 2008.
The project offers a wide range of ways for Omanis to learn about sailing, and maps a pathway for talented sailors to be competitive in international events. 'We have a very ambitious goal, which is to win an Olympic medal in 2024,' said Donatella Donatelli, PR Manager for Oman Sail.

According to Donatelli, more than 10,000 young Omanis have been through training programmes in a range of youth, women's and community sailing camps in the past four years, and the project's long-term objective is to introduce 70,000 Omanis to the sport by 2020.'We have three sailing schools so far, and we are planning to open eight more. They will be located all over the country, so we are giving an opportunities to all the Omanis living in every part of the country to sail,' Donatelli said.

The project can already boast some success stories, including the two Omani crews of The Wave, Muscat Extreme 40 sailing team - bowman Hashim Al Rashdi and headsail trimmer Musab Al Hadi. The Wave, Muscat, champion of the Extreme Sailing Series in 2012, is leading the points standings this season after beating Swiss team Alinghi in a tight series at the ESS Qingdao event last month. Al Rashdi, 26, was a member of the 2012 series-winning crew, while Al Hadi, 24, is in his debut year on the series. The young Omanis are guided by British skipper Leigh McMillan, New Zealand tactician Ed Smyth and British mainsail trim Pete Greenhalgh.

'The ESS is just one of the international sailing events in which we participate. Last year we had two teams competing, The Wave, Muscat won the championship and Oman Air finished second,' said Donatelli. 'Our final objective is to make the team a whole Omani team. We are now using international professional sailors to instruct the Omanis. The results we have had so far are quite impressive. Hopefully in the near future, we will be able to race a fully-Omani crew.'

China, on the other hand, presently has an on-off relationship with the international sailing world. There was a flamboyant entrance onto the world stage at the 32nd America's Cup (remember the spectacular bright yellow boat?), the occasional appearance in the ESS, and participation in the ACWS. But there is no China Team in the America's Cup proper. Olympic gold at Qingdao 2008 (Yin Jian, Womens' Windsurfing) and bronze (Xu Lijia, Laser Radial) followed by gold at Weymouth (Xu Lijia, Laser Radial) should raise the profile of sailing in China, but based on current resources and quality of saliors, Team China still has a long way to go before becoming a force to be reckoned with in international sailing regattas.

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