BYM News puts questions to Oman Sail about the team, the Arabian 100 and what is on offer for a cruising yachtsman.
BYM News: Can you tell us how and why Oman Sail came into being?

Oman Sail was set up in the middle of last year under the guidance of her Excellency Dr. Rajiha bint Abdulamir bin Ali the Minister of Tourism to help create Omani role models and promote the tourism potential of the Sultanate.

Oman Sail’s objective is to inspire a new generation of young Omanis to take up sailing as recreation and as a competitive sport. This will help to restore Oman’s maritime eminence through competing at international level as well as supporting the development of events to support professional sailing in Arabian Peninsula.

Today we are in the first chapter of a book that includes hi-tech round the world ocean sailing and the highest level inshore professional racing, in turn driving interest from young Omanis to step on to a boat for the first time, creating dreams of their own and re-igniting Oman’s great maritime heritage.

BYM News: How did Mohsin get involved?

Oman Sail conducted a grueling selection process at the beginning of 2008 in which forty volunteers underwent a wide variety of challenging tests broken into two phases; one week in the desert and mountains, and another week at sea. The evaluation of the volunteers included testing their physical and mental endurance to the limit as well as their ability to learn quickly and function as part of a team.

The eight members selected to join the Oman Sail team spent the summer in Cowes, UK gaining their qualifications from Day Skipper to Yachtmaster. Mohsin, plus two other Omani crew were then selected to sail Musandam back to Oman from Cowes – a voyage of 31 days. His natural skill on the water was evident and Mohsin was then selected to continue on Musandam and join the Oman Sail attempt to circumnavigate the globe from Muscat to Muscat.

BYM News: The Oman 100 is being built in Australia. Why did you decide on a 100 foot trimaran, which is the modern day solo sailor’s record attempt boat, rather than building a bigger boat that could try to take the Jules Verne trophy?

This new Oman Sail flagship has been conceived as the first member of a new One-Design class (identical boats), rather than a one-off boat. On purpose, Oman Sail have not opted to simply build a bigger and better boat with records like the Jules Verne in mind – instead the new Arabian 100 will provide a challenging and exciting platform very suitable to the often lighter wind conditions in the region as well as the storms of the Southern Ocean, and within reach of the sailing capabilities of the developing Oman Sail team in the coming years. If as it is hoped the Arabian 100 becomes the Class of choice for other developing sailing teams in the region, thereby avoiding the arms race seen in other big unlimited multihull classes, the One Design aspect will create close-combat racing whilst remaining in a context of controlled costs.

BYM News: How is it progressing? Do you have a launch date yet?

The boat is progressing well. The parts are being shipped to Salalah, Oman where she will be assembled through March – May. We expect her in Omani waters by the end of the year.

BYM News: Oman was a great seafaring nation for centuries, I believe from as early as 3000 BC. When did that start to decline and why?

The earliest evidence of Oman’s costal trade actually dates back to the Bronze Age, and a Sumerian text mentions a Mesopotamian king of the time who traveled to Majan (of which Oman was apart) to buy vessels. By the 8th Century Omani ships and merchants had reached the distant ports of China.

As trade routes changed so did the dependence on the sea. There isn’t a specific point mentioned in the history books when this occurred and Oman continues to be incredibly proud of its heritage.

BYM News: Tell us about the plans to get Omani school children into sailing?

We will be developing an Oman Sail academy to make sailing accessibly to schools and young enthusiasts, developing a wider base from which sailors from around the country can progress up to the Oman Sail Race Team – or on to develop marine industry skills, and the infrastructure to create a sustainable future for sailing in Oman.

We did try sailing for kids age 8-16 years during Muscat’s yearly festival in February and are also currently touring Omani schools to tell them about Mohsin Al Busaidi and explain the challenge he is facing on his Round the World Attempt.

BYM News: Will this be something only for the very rich, or do you hope to give all children the opportunity?

The aim is to ensure that academy is open to all Omani children – both male and female.

BYM News: Can we expect to see an Omani sailing team in the next Olympic Games?

We would love that! Realistically, we are at the beginning of our journey and the training of our Oman Sail race team and London 2012 is too close for us to be competitive, but the aim is to certainly have an Olympic team one day.

BYM News: Is sailing in Oman something westerners will enjoy, or will it be too hot for them, out on the water, for most of the year?

The temperatures in Oman between October – March are simply fabulous. It is shorts + t-shirt weather during the day with a light sweater at night.By mid-March the temperatures do rise significantly, but after a very cold European winter, it is still very tempting for sun worshipers!

BYM News: Can you suggest some interesting things that a visiting yachtsman might do in Oman?

Oman is unbelievably beautiful and is an adventure play ground.  With 1,700 km of natural coastline, it also has two large sand deserts (the Wahibas and the Empty Quarter), an abundance of wadis (dry river beds) to go 4x4 exploring down and a mountain range only 2 hours from Muscat.  Off the boat, a yachtsman needs a 4x4, a jerry can of water, a good pair of hiking boots and a warm sleeping bag.  The old fishing towns of Sur as well as Salalah (southern most town) are worth exploring as well as the old souks of Muscat and forts of Nakhal and Nizwa. The region of Musandam is also legendary for its Norwegian like fjords and great diving and the island of Masirah is world famous as a large green turtle nesting site and pristine white beaches. You could quite happily visit for a month and not get bored …

BYM News: The coastline of Oman is very beautiful because the mountains plunge to the sea. Doesn’t that fact also mean that it will be difficult to have a series of marinas along the coast, which would allow a cruising yachtsman to “hop” from one to another?

The mountains plunge mainly into the sea in the Musandam region to the north of the country, but there are plenty of coves and access points to enable a yachtsman to cruise from one marina to the next. The Ministry of Tourism has a plan to build another 5 marinas by the beginning of the next decade which will enable cruise yachting to really kick off.

Check out the Musandam album of the BYM News photo gallery.

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