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Women's Crew build up to Sail Arabia, The Tour

by Hannah Morris on 27 Jan 2012
The girls and I on board the Farr30 - Sail Arabia, The Tour Hannah Morris
An all female crew is set to take part in the Sail Arabia – The Tour (SATT) event, being run for only the second time this year, and kicking off on February the 12th.

The Tour was established in early 2011 by Oman Sail, and is the first international sailing regatta to join together the nations of the Gulf to race competitively around the region. In relatively unchartered waters, this event will provide a unique opportunity for sailors from around the world to test their skills over six legs of the race.

The women’s entry into this event has come from part of a programme that was launched last year to develop Oman’s first professional female sailors. A selection of international yachtswomen have come together to form a team with two Omani women, and are currently in training out of Mussannah, Oman, in order to put in a solid performance for the tour.

The crew consists of:
Dee Caffari – UK, skipper
Christine Briand – France, Tactician/Navigator
Katie Pettibone – USA, Mainsheet Trim
Mary Rook – UK, Trimmer
Intisar Al Toobi – Oman, second Trimmer
Hannah Morris – New Zealand, Pitman (First three legs)
Emma Westmacott – UK, Pitman (Last three legs)
Raaya Al Habsi – Oman, Mast
Claire Pruvot – France, Bowman

Reserves:
Tahira Al Yahyai - Oman
Khulood Al Kindi - Oman

I have been lucky enough to take part in this event, and the training leading up to the race. Currently in Oman, I am staying with the rest of the international girls as we head out to the sailing centre in Mussannah every day to sail with the Omani girls.

Our introduction to the project began back in December as we all came from far corners of the world to spend a week with the four girls who would eventually become two race crew, and two reserves for the race. The four eager faces that met us on the first day belonged to young women who had only learnt to sail three months prior. They had been part of the first Omani women’s dinghy instructor course before being selected to take part in the SATT, and learn all about offshore sailing.

The whole concept of Omani women sailing is new to this country, and it is exciting to see the large number of females taking an interest in the idea.

The first question from friends and family back home always seems to be ‘will you have to wear a head covering whilst sailing’, and as I have found out, it is not required. Although the girls themselves will wear sporty type head coverings while they are on the boat, we don’t have to. This is just scratching the surface of what we, as an international cluster from very different cultures to the Middle East, have been discovering during our time here thus far. As much as we are contributing to their sailing knowledge and keelboat experience, our four girls have made us feel very welcome in their country, and happy to explain their culture, routines and other things we did not previously understand, which is truly humbling in a country so different to my own.

So, as the countdown to the Tour is ticking along, we are well underway in our training regime. Each day begins with a two hour session at the gym, followed by an afternoon sailing session usually with the two Omani boy’s teams who will also be competing in the Tour.

We have completed two nights offshore, and we have now bridged the gap between coaches and students, and starting to form as one team. Intisar and Raya have taken to their roles with enthusiasm and a positive ‘can do’ attitude, and after their first two nights offshore, they are still excited about the race which can only be a good thing!

As we continue to prepare the boat and train with the girls, I will endeavour to write about this unique experience, and update our team results from each port in the race.

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