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Young Omani sailors pass Tanzanian test with flying colours
The five young sailors selected by Oman Sail to represent Oman at the 2012 International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA) African Championships return home to their families on Monday having completed one of the most enlightening and educational tours of their lives.
After spending ten days in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, competing against 70 other Optimist sailors from across Africa, the youngsters, who were attending IODA African as part of Oman Sail's drive to create lifetime learning opportunities for Omani children through sailing, boarded a flight back to Muscat with their knowledge and understanding of sail training, racing, weather, different cultures, traditions and food greatly enhanced.
Mansoor Al Mahrouqi, 13, Salim Al Alawi, 11, Abdul Rahman Al Maashari, 11, Azan Al Wahaibi, 11, and Ahmed Al Mujaini, 13, proudly wore their dishdashas at the official receptions and gave an excellent account of themselves on the water where their learning curve was steeper than for most other competitors due to their relative lack of experience. Mansoor Al Mahrouqi was given a special award: thanks to his attitude and strong motivation, he was able to finish all the races.
All the youngsters had only been sailing for six months, having been selected from an initial squad of 60 contenders who had been training three times a week since February. During the summer, they had completed a demanding six week training camp for five days a week at Oman Sail’s sailing schools culminating in nine race selection trials. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the young novices, most of whom were away from their homes and families for the first time.
Salim and Mansoor suffered puncture wounds from sea urchins which ruled them out of the practice race. The strong winds and heavy rain in Tanzania also proved challenging as did the short courses in the team racing competition.
But the ‘mashallah’ factor was high from the outset with the green grass and trees of Tanzania attracting the most response, as well as the warmth of the welcome from the regatta hosts and the Oman Ambassador to Tanzania who brought them an Omani flag.
Most valuable of all was the experience of competing in an international event where they had to prepare their own boats and rigging, measure the boats and launch them, learn the rules of racing and stay abreast of the daily racing programme. There were daily briefings on tactics and the importance of eliminating mistakes to maximise opportunities.
Over time, their self-confidence and will to win grew stronger and each day, the title of ‘superstar’ was awarded to the best performer within the Oman squad, demonstrating an understanding teamwork and motivation. According to their coaches, they listened well and learned fast and although the competition was as strong as anticipated, the target of finishing inside the top 80% of the field was met.
“I can see the improvement of the sailors in everything,” said Oman Sail junior race coordinator Abdul Aziz Al Shidi.
“Take the way they launched their boats. They had never seen those conditions and that method before. The first day was hard but they realized their mistakes. The second day they managed to get out without any problems and when we had the biggest breaking waves of all three days, they sailed out confidently and without any problem.
“I saw the smiles after the races, which means that they are happy. They know that they are not experienced and that they are younger. They see that they are so much smaller than the other sailors here but they managed to finish the races and even beat some sailors. They want to improve and they are ready to work hard. We are trying to make this a happy but motivating experience for them and it seems that it is working so… I am happy!” said Abdul Aziz.
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