Al Thuraya crew ready for steep learning curve


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Muscat: The cream of Oman's female offshore sailors will be aiming to mix a bit of learning with a lot of adventure when they head off on EFG Sailing Arabia–The Tour 2014 as members of Al Thuraya Bank Muscat's all women's team next month.

American skipper Katie Pettibone who in a long and distinguished professional sailing career has been a member of three America's Cup teams, two round the world race crews and two Sailing Arabia-The Tour teams, has a mid-fleet finish in mind when the 15 day race across four different countries stopping at eight marinas in Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman comes to an end.

But her principal function is to use the 750NM race as a platform for advancing racing and leadership sailing skills among her young Omani charges so that an all Omani women's entry becomes a sure fire certainty in the not too distant future.

One member of the crew Raiya Al Habsi will need no introduction wherever she goes in the Gulf region. In between SATTs, this inspiring young sailor has been busy adding mileage to her professional racing clock. She competed in the J80 World Championships in Marseille last year and her participation in one of the world's most famous offshore races, the Rolex Fastnet Race earned her a nomination in the 2013 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards.

"I love racing in SATT because it is intense and we get to enjoy all the countries in our region from our boats," she said.

Ibtisam Al Salmi is another Omani sailor with SATT miles under her belt but their goals are rooted in progress rather than in results, says Pettibone.

"In Khaloud Al Uraimi, Huda Al Mashrafi and Raham Al Shezawi, we have a number of new Omani women on board so our continuing goal is to teach them racing and leadership skills that will enable them to be successful."

Tough call
"It will be tough because there are some strong teams who have done a lot of training. The Germans are back and the Dutch are back and Sidney Gavignet and Cedric Pouligny are there and those guys will be a notch above, setting the pace."

David Graham, CEO of Oman Sail said the inclusion of an all-women's team in EFG Sailing Arabia–The Tour was an important part of Oman Sail campaign to develop a new generation of women sailors.  "In 2012 for the first time, there was an all-women's crew in SATT and it was one of the first major milestones in Oman Sail's Women's Programme," he said.

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