Muscat: Oman became the centre of attention at the world's largest sailing event and Northern Europe's biggest summer festival, Kieler Woche, recently, after Oman Sail's flagship, MOD70, set a new racing record which drew thousands of German visitors to the Oman tourism exhibition pavilion.
Over the period of nine days, the Baltic seaport of Kiel played host to crowds in excess of three million and many of them, alerted to the buzz created by Musandam-Oman Sail when it smashed the 27.5 mile Kiel Week Welcome Race record from Kiel to Eckernforde by almost 20 minutes, visited the Omani pavilion.
The Lord Mayor of Kiel, Ulf Kaempfer, was one of the visitors, after he sailed on Musandam-Oman Sail, teaming up with a mixed international crew led by skipper Damian Foxall, which featured three Omanis, Mohsin Al Busaidi, Sami Al Shukaili and Yassir Al Rahbi, as well as two German sailors, Timmy Kroger and Anna-Maria Renken.
"What a thrilling boat. I steered for about half an hour and we did 10 knots plus and were by far the fastest boat in the fjord!
"Before I was given the helm, though, I had to grind and trim the foresail with Omani sailor Sami. All in all, it was a great experience that I would not have missed for the world. "This Musandam-Oman Sail project is like a mirror of Kieler Woche. It stands for a colourful internationality and I had a great time on board with all of them. Kiel was very pleased to have Oman Sail here this year with such an exciting multi-hull," noted Kaempfer.
The MOD70 proved to be a real head-turner, despite there being 2,000 other boats present, along with tourism officials from Oman Sail. Also, the Oman Ministry of Tourism in Germany reported a brisk footfall in the exhibition pavilion and plenty of questions about the Sultanate.
"If you judge our popularity by how many Omani dates we handed out and how many hands and feet we tattooed with Omani henna, we can pronounce Kiel a great success, because the queue for our henna artist snaked around the pavilion almost every day and, in just four days, we went through 10kg of dates," said Huda Sultan, Venue Manager and Oman Sail's Head of Marketing.
"The most common questions revolved around where Oman is and how does one get there, and we were prepared with maps and montages to show them the answers. We even had details of Oman Air flights between Oman and Germany, so no stone was left unturned!
"Guests also wanted to know about Omani culture, where the best beaches and diving sites were, and if it was true that we had our very own Grand Canyon, which, of course, we do with the Wadi Guhl. We really felt like our efforts were making a difference and, hopefully, we will see them again…perhaps in Muscat", said Huda Sultan.
It was the race record, however, that started the pavilion rush, according to one of Oman's most senior sailors, Mohsin Al Busaidi.
"It is difficult to ignore our boat, Musandam-Oman Sail, in Kiel. It is more than 21 metres long, almost 17 metres wide and goes like a rocket, so we did create a bit of a buzz," he said.