Visiting eight ports in four countries around the GCC over the course of just 15 days and with a small army of support staff, shore crew and media in hot pursuit and with the schedule at the mercy of the weather, the logistics behind the organisation of EFG Bank Sailing Arabia — The Tour (SATT) this year were massive.
This complex event, now into its third year and that it went so smoothly can entirely be attributed to the effort and experience of Oman Sail's event director Issa Al Ismaili and the tightly knit Omani team working behind the scenes on the logistics and event management.
This year competitors in the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia — The Tour included several world class sailors such as former America's Cup helmsman Bertrand Pace and Volvo Ocean Race sailors Neal McDonald and Sidney Gavignet.
SATT does an exemplary job in increasing awareness of sailing throughout the Gulf region and well as providing an opportunity for GCC sailing teams to line up against one another. This year teams from the GCC were well represented again, including a team backed by a Dubai-based company and an inaugural entry crewed by sailors from Abu Dhabi, led by Volvo Ocean Race sailor Adil Khaled.
New to the competition were young student teams from Delft University in the Netherlands and the University of Plymouth in the UK — all attracted by the prospect of competing in a challenging event, in warm conditions during the Northern hemisphere winter, in waters that most had never experienced before. The event, which received press coverage globally, amply demonstrated how well qualified and experienced young Omanis are today capable of organising world class sporting events.
The ever smiling logistics officer, Maryam Al Jadidi, has one of the toughest challenges within the organisation team and was severely tested in Abu Dhabi this year when thanks to a strong wind the SATT fleet arrived almost a day early requiring that extra hotel room/nights for crews had to be found in record time.
"It was a great opportunity for me to look after the logistical support in the event and to be part of the organising team of EFG Bank Sailing Arabia — The Tour," says Al Jadidi. "I am proud to be part of such an important event." Al Jadidi has worked outside of Oman before looking after the logistics for Oman Sail teams competing on the MOD70 circuit and the Extreme Sailing Series.
There is a small similarity with the MOD70 Round Europe races in that SATT combines inshore and offshore racing and travels at pace from one country to another. However fulfilling the same job for an event takes the challenge of this job to a whole new level. "EFG Bank Sailing Arabia — The Tour was the most challenging experience because we have much greater responsibilities, not only to look after a team, but to look after the entire event. It required you to make decisions and solve problems efficiently."
Impartial of course, but being a woman within the SATT organisation, Al Jadidi very much enjoyed following the exploits of Dee Caffari's all-female Al Thuraya bank muscat team that this year included four Omani sailors, twice the number that competed last year: "The team has shown how determined women can be when competing again male sailors and beating them in the races, while achieving success and flying the Omani flag high. I hope to see more female sailors from Oman competing in the near future."
Event co-ordinator and SATT project manager, Yaqoob Al Bulushi, has been involved with the Tour since its first edition in 2011. He describes his role: "My job is to supervise the venue management and oversee the invitation of our guests, officials and sailing federations, etc. as well as looking after the safety and security of the team,"
Compared to SATT's first running two years ago, Al Bulushi said of the latest event: "This year there was a significant development in the efficiency of getting Customs and Immigration procedures to flow smoothly. We have a bigger team and we have learned from our past experience.
"The Tour now has a strong image in the region and we thank all the officials across the GCC for supporting us throughout the race. The event reflects the brotherly relations GCC officials have and their continued efforts in supporting regional events such as this."
Ahmed Saeedi, head of procurement and a member of the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia — The Tour organising committee, said he was very happy to be part of the event this year: "I learned a lot. My main responsibility was to facilitate clearing customs and immigration. I had several sleepless nights, but it was great to ensure everything went as smoothly as possible. The event has helped me develop my learning and understanding of the various custom regulations through the GCC and this will ensure greater efficiency in our events in years to come.
"I'm also very pleased with the great support from all the various police and airport authorities that helped us throughout the Tour. Their support was key to such fruitful results and the success of the event." Saeedi was impressed by the management of the event and how throughout the lengthy duration of the event the whole team maintained its spirit and positive outlook. "As a team we all have the common goal of showing that our event is up with the best international standards."
Saeedi also joined the Omani Team Renaissance on the final leg from Musannah to Muscat when the team came home third, its first podium finish. Saeedi may have been their good luck charm, said skipper Mohsin Al Busaidi.
Saeedi was also assisted by Bader Al Mujaini, HR specialist in Oman Sail "What a great event! The tour opens your eyes to looking at the tiniest details to ensure the teams' travel procedures run smoothly.
It is a unique learning experience and it great to see how we are raising Oman's profile not only as a key sailing destination but as a hub of hosting and organising international sailing events. I feel proud to be part of this successful event, to me it was all about hard work, team work and positive attitude," commented Al Mujaini.
Ghalib Al Harthy was an integral member of the SATT's logistics team. "To be part of the Tour is a great privilege. You can gain so much experience from this, the event having been a multicultural environment with sailors, media and race officials from around the world. This helps your self confidence grow and give you a broader prospective in running event logistic in a smooth, professional manner.
"The goal is coordination throughout the team, everyone knowing where their responsibilities lie and being supportive. It is a self challenge and a self motivating experience and I'm pleased the event this was such a great success."
David Graham, Oman Sail CEO, added: "I am pleased that our predominantly Omani events team, designed this event and managing the event and we managed to get a prestigious bank domiciled in Switzerland to put their confident in them and this race." EFG Bank (Monaco) skipper Sidney Gavignet also praised the team: "Very well done to the Oman Sail team for the organisation. It was well a very well organised regatta."