by Nicky Moore
Oman Sail have officially launched the next phase in its unique project – a sailing programme aimed exclusively at the Sultanate’s female population.
The launch of the Oman Sail Womens Sailing Program. Pictures of Shirley Robertson, with young omani sailor Sulaff Al Salmi and her head mistress Mrs Suana
The programme was unveiled at an official ceremony held at Oman Sail’s headquarters at The Wave, Muscat, (10 October) and was attended by a host of VIPs, including influential women from the region’s leading women’s committees, representatives from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), as well as a number of international and regional media.
Since its launch in 2008, Oman Sail has taken nearly 7,000 Omani children sailing, over half of which have been females. The Women’s Programme, supported by Bank Muscat, will take that to the next level, instilling confidence and teaching valuable, transferable life skills while also creating jobs and unique opportunities for the nation’s women. From Oman Sail’s national grassroots community programme to its 2020 Olympic ambitions, Omani women will be trained, coached, qualified, employed, developed and nurtured every step of the way, equipping them with all the necessary skills to excel.
Omani Sailors have shot to prominence on the international sailing stage over the past three years, taking part in some of the world’s highest profile events, including the Extreme 40 Sailing Series and the Tour de France à la Voile.
Now Oman’s women have taken upon the same opportunity to stand alongside their male colleagues in inspiring the nation and reconnecting Oman with its proud maritime heritage.
Oman Sail’s CEO David Graham explains: 'It was always Oman Sail’s aim to contribute to the development of Oman and Omanis, and that means offering men and women the same sporting and career opportunities. The women’s programme is the next stage in the project and will ensure we fulfil what we set out for the Oman Sail project to achieve.
'After much consultation, we have worked to create the right environment for the women to learn in. The programme is designed to find the right people with the right commitment and we will be communicating with the families every step of the way making sure they understand what we have set out to achieve.'
The programme got underway in July, when 75 young women attended the first of the Women’s Programme open days at Oman Sail sailing centres. Of these, 40 were chosen to attend a three-week training course, developing their basic skills. A number of these women are now in the middle of a six-month training course equipping them to qualify as sailing instructors and take the first steps to becoming Oman’s first professional women sailors.
Afnan Al Adawi, one of the first women to be recruited for the project said: 'I am so happy and proud to be a part of Oman Sail Team, I learnt about sailing after working as a volunteer at the Extreme Sailing Series when it was hosted in Muscat and I loved the concept. Now I have the opportunity to pursue my career through sailing, am so pleased to be selected amongst the first Omani Women Team and I will work hard to make my country proud.'
Double Olympic gold medallist, Shirley Robertson, and round the world yachtswoman, Samantha Davies, have been recruited as Project Ambassadors.
Both are inspiring examples of the opportunities sailing can offer a woman, and they will get a chance to share their knowledge and expertise with the new generation of female Omani sailors when Oman Sail enters a 100 per cent female crew into the second Sailing Arabia – The Tour (SATT), the demanding, offshore race around the Arabian coast, in February 2012.
The launch of the Oman Sail Womens Sailing Program. Pictures of General Albert Whitley, H E Dr Madeeha Al Shaibany, Minister for Education and Mr Abdul Razak Al Issa, CE of Bank Muscat.
Oman Sail’s guest of honour at the launch of the Women’s Programme, Her Excellency Dr Madeeha bint Ahmed al Shibaniyah, the Minister of Education, unveiled the Farr 30 boat, which the women will be competing in during Sailing Arabia – The Tour. The boat, which has received Royal blessings, was named Al Thuraya, the name of a star cluster which traditionally marks the start of the sailing season in Oman.
SATT is the first of two ambitious short-term goals Oman Sail has for the Women’s Programme. The other is to have teams of qualified female dinghy instructors in the three Oman Sail sailing centres by March 2012, to help develop Oman’s future sailing stars and to encourage more women to follow in their footsteps and get involved in the sport.
Oman Sail website