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.