Oman Sail concluded Oman’s first National Optimist Championship last week with a prize-giving ceremony that saw seven promising young sailors awarded for their outstanding performances. The event came on the back of a weeklong training camp for 14 members of the Youth Squad as part of the Omantel Youth Programme, co-sponsored by Oman Shipping Company. It saw 45 young Omani sailors aged between 9 and 14 compete over four days in Sur.

The racing was also part of the National Youth Squad qualification process for the IODA African Championship in Morocco from 9-17 October and the Asian Games in Korea from September 19th to October 2nd.

"This National Championship was the first to be held for the Optimist class in Oman so these sailors have made history," said Rashid Al Kindi, Oman Sail's National Team Manager. "They will always be able to say 'I was there’. It has been an intense competition and our young sailors have demonstrated very high standards of sailing and determination. We are proud of every single one of them.”

The prize-giving ceremony was held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Bahwan al Mukhaini, Member of State Council. Zakariya Al Wahabi, who represented his race club at Mussanah Sports City, clinched first place in the overall standings. The 14 year-old won six of the nine races staged over the championship, coming second in a further two. Salim Al Alawi and Marwan Al Jabri from Bandar Al Rowdha Sailing School took the other two podium places while Samiya Al Riyami, the only female competitor, came sixth.

Al Wahabi won a well-earned place to represent his country at the Asian Games in Korea in September. Al Riyami will also attend the Games as the top Omani female based on the results of previous ranking races and the Sur championship. She will also compete in the IODA African Championship in Morocco with the five leading boys from this championship.

Three young sailors were also awarded for their achievements in the “under 11” category. Saud Al Abri received the first place prize and his sailing school, the Wave Muscat, was also awarded as the school that earned the most points from racing against the other Oman Sail sailing schools in Sur, Bandar Al Rowdha and Mussanah.

Conditions through the week were mainly light with no racing possible on the final day due to lack of wind but the children were still able to attend clinics run by coaches Abdulaziz Al Shidi and Leonardo Santos who were monitoring performances.

Oman Sail's newest sailing school, the fully-equipped sailing academy in Sur that was funded by Oman LNG, played host to the first Optimist championship and the learning curve was steep, admitted Sur Sailing School Manager Said Al Araimi.

"This was our first big project since we opened in January and we were delighted with the way it went," he commented. "We have been working hard to introduce sailing to the local community and the youth around Sur. Our aim is to build a strong team where our sailors can compete well nationally and regionally, and our race officials, coaches and managers set great courses, draw up great programmes for the kids and run excellent events. We have a lot of work to do but this is a good start."