Oman Sail’s Dee Caffari is in Sweden this week with her all-women crew on board EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour to compete in the Farr 30 Internationals as a training platform for next year’s offshore classic around the Arabian Gulf and to promote EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2017.
Caffari has put together a team of six mixed Omani and European sailors for the event in Bastad in Sweden, which runs from August 1-7 with four days of racing starting today.
Most familiar among the Omani crew is Ibtisam Al Salmi who has spent part of the summer competing in Europe on the Oman Sail all women’s J80 alongside Marwa Al Khaifi and Tamadher Al Balushi, her teammates for the trip to Sweden, all of them taking time out from their ‘day jobs’ as Oman Sail sailing instructors.
Volvo Ocean racers Libby Greenhalgh and Abby Ehler, who were both members of the all-women’s Team SCA in the last race will make up the rest of Caffari’s team alongside Kate Macgregor, the British match racer who competed at the London 2012 Olympics.
Caffari and her Omani girls are all familiar with the one design Farr 30 boats, which have been used in EFG Sailing Arabia – the Tour, the Gulf region’s no1. offshore race, since it was created in 2011.
“So far this year, the girls have been racing J80s in Europe so making the switch back to Farr 30s should be straightforward but really this event is all about promoting EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2017 which is a fantastic event especially for international teams looking for serious warm water competition in the European winter,” said Caffari.
The annual EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour has changed and grown with each edition over six years to become the most highly regarded sailing event in the Middle East as well as an effective platform for showcasing the Gulf, tourism and its maritime heritage.
Sailor’s blogs from last year’s Tour gave an insight as to why EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is gaining ground among competitors and becoming an iconic and sustainable sailboat race.
They spoke at length about the scenery, which ranged from ‘utterly barren to stunningly beautiful’ with 1000m cliffs and massive sandbanks and of the navigational hazards that ocean going sailors find so irresistible such as giant tug boats and barges, oil fields, exclusion zones and islands.
There were night time reports from Team Averda of ‘oilfields burning hot and red, oceans being lit up by ‘phosphorescence so luminous the boats left a trail of ‘glow in the dark’ plankton behind them’.
All the teams made reference to the gruelling physical and mental exertion brought on by the long watches and the sudden changes in conditions from a perfect 10 knot breeze and clear skies to leaden skies, lumpy seas and 30 knot gusts.
For the professionals, EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is a test of skills. To everyone else, it is a test of character which explains its appeal.
In February this year, French skipper Sidney Gavignet took the title for the third time on EFG Bank Monaco and the interest generated in the event accounted for a total media value of over six million euros, which was more than 50% higher than the media value of previous editions.
The 2017 edition will take place just a few months before the start of the round the world Volvo Ocean Race and is set to attract a number of teams seeking warm weather training opportunities.
“We created EFG Sailing Arabia – the Tour to offer both professional and amateur racing teams an opportunity to participate in a popular new one design circuit and explore a region that was probably new to them and it has been a great success,” said Salma Al Hashmi, Oman Sail’s Chief Marketing Officer.
“Each year, we listen to how the sailors and sponsors feel the race could be improved and we freshen up the route – they want a race track that tests young professionals starting out on their offshore careers, seasoned professionals looking for a challenge and experienced recreational sailors who fancy their chances against the professionals.”
“We use EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour as a way of promoting the Gulf region and now our aim is to use the Farr 30 Internationals in Sweden as a way of promoting SATT17 to generate even more teams, more sponsors and attract more interest around the world.”
The Farr 30 International Regatta 2016, in Laholm Bay starts on Monday August 1 with the first race on Wednesday August 3 preceded by a special presentation to competitors and the media by Oman Sail’s SATT17 team.
For more information on EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour 2017, please go to http://sailingarabiathetour.com
The 2017 event dates are: 14 February-1 March 2017