As they returned to Muscat recently, following a three-month training-cum-competition trip to Europe, three young sailors of the Al Thuraya-Oman Sail team – Rajaa Al Owaisi, Ibtisam Al Salmi and Nashwa Al Kindi – opened up a huge treasure trove of sweet memories.
"The winds became fierce. We took our positions in the rear. Boats sailed faster. We couldn't fathom what had been happening around. But Rajaa Al Owaisi didn't panic. The captain kept her cool and steered the J-80 boat to a respectable finish, earning appreciation even from our experienced opponents," Nashwa sounded relieved while disclosing the first of the unforgettable incidents that happened during the Grand Prix de l'Ecole Navale in France in May.
"The European Championships in Barcelona, too, gave us a huge challenge," Rajaa recalled. "We were cruising well under extreme weather conditions. But an unexpected collision in the middle gave us many anxious moments. It was Ibtisam Al Salmi's presence of mind saved our day. She rushed to the middle, held the sheet with the help of Nashwa Al Kindi, and prevented the collapse of the sail. It was a great team effort, which was the hallmark of Team Al Thuraya."
The many challenges, they feel, made them wiser and richer in experience. For, they learnt ways to formulate strategies in different conditions and act quickly according to the wind directions. It was on April 17 that the three Omani women kick-started their european expedition with the Spi Ouest event in France. They headed to the Grand Prix de l'Ecole Navale and Normandy Sailing Week before traveling to Barcelona for the European Championships. Apart from the three Omani talents, the team was lucky to get the services of British Olympic sailor Mary Rook, who donned the role of team tactician.
Rajaa and Ibtisam believe the European trip boosted their morale. "We gave a tough fight to top professional sailors from all over the World. We are proud of our show. We hope that our exploits may inspire Omani women to sailing, which will eventually result in the formation of all-Omani women crews for different championships across the world," believes Rajaa.
The inclusion of experienced sailing instructor, Nashwa Al Kindi, was one the best things to happen to the team. Nash, as she was fondly called, is a woman of energy and strength. The first Arab female to make a trans-oceanic crossing, Nashwa was relatively new to competitive sailing, but she didn't find any difficulty in gelling with the team. The European trip taught her various roles and responsibilities of a sailor. "I donned different roles in different races. In the first week, I took care of the bow. I was in the pit during the second race. Altogether, it was a great learning experience," she said.
Ibtisam found Nashwa's never-say-die attitude was her biggest asset. "She is a strong personality. She tries to perform well in her roles. She is very adventurous. All these qualities helped her gain respect in the team."
Rajaa too praised hardworking Nash. "She is ready to take up challenges any time, and we are enjoying her company very much. Her inimitable style made a huge difference in the team morale. She often cracked jokes, sang songs in different languages, and it relieved our stress."
The big team effort thus helped Al Thuraya-Oman Sail team register impressive shows in three gruelling races. They finished a commendable 22nd (among 56 boats) in the Grand Prix de l'Ecole Navale, France, while they got No. 12 (among 36 boats). The team wound up their European tour with a respectable 12th place finish (among 52 boats) in the first race in Barcelona. "The conditions in Europe were unpredictable.
So every race was a huge challenge. And it taught us a lot of lessons," Rajaa reflected upon the competitions. Ibtisam felt that the results spoke volumes of their efforts. "Mary Rook's tactics and our efforts helped us earn respectable positions in all the races. The analysis sessions at the end of each race were really eye-openers," she said.
The good show was a result of a tedious homework they did before embarking on the trip to Europe. "We trained from 8 am till 4 pm before we set out to Europe," Rajaa explained their schedule, adding "We spent around two and a half hours at the gym, toning and strengthening our muscles. After the break, we went out on sailing for three hours. It was the secret of our good performance."
With the european challenge successfully completed, the three women now aim to scale new heights in sailing. Besides, they dream of competing in international races with an all-woman Omani team. "It is our wish, and we hope it can be fulfilled soon," they chorused.
|Rajaa Al Owaisi|
The European trip was a great learning experience, as I endeavour to improve my skills to win more laureals for my country in international competitions. More over, training and exposure competitions are essential to polish our skills. It helps us get an idea about the quality of the international sailiors.
|Ibtisam Al Salmi|
The competitions in Europe were tough. So the European trip gave us an idea about the challenges that await us in future. We are happy to get good results, vying against the top sailors. We got an opportunity to interact with renowned sailors from all around the world.
|Nashwa Al Kindi|
Being a new member of the team, I always look up to my illustrious team-mates who taught me different aspects of sailing. Al Thuraya is a strong team which performs well under the guidance of British Olympic Sailor Mary Rook. I hope our efforts will inspire more Omani women to take up the sport.
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