MUSCAT, Jan 3: The women on new German entry DB Schenker have a unique challenge at EFG Sailing Arabia — The Tour 2017: their main aim is to inspire women from across the GCC to follow in their footsteps.
British sailing star Dee Caffari returns to the Tour for the fourth time as skipper of the all women crew and despite putting together a hot shot team, comprising 50% Omani sailors, her ambitions are geared more to making a difference than reaching the podium.
“We compete in EFG Sailing Arabia — The Tour because it is extremely important to have a female team entered into an event in this region and to try and make a difference in how females are represented,” said Caffari who skippered the first women’s entry in EFG Sailing Arabia — The Tour in 2012 and has more ocean racing miles under her belt than any other woman on the planet having raced around the world five times — twice on her own, twice with crew and once two-handed.
“We will be seeking to inspire fellow females from the GCC states, we want to put Oman on the map and show what Omani woman can achieve, we hope to inspire others around the GCC to follow in their footsteps.”
For the 2017 edition, Caffari’s all women team is sponsored by the international logistics company DB Schenker who in August last year were official logistics partner for the Olympic sailing teams from Austria, Norway, Portugal, and Switzerland at Rio 2016.
She has selected four Omani sailors including Ibtisam Al Salmi, one of the Middle East’s first professional female sailors as well as Marwa Al Khaifi and Tamathir Al Balushi, both sailing instructors for Oman Sail, who competed in EFG Sailing Arabia — The Tour with Caffari last year.
In addition, three of Caffari’s team are making their debut in EFG SATT and they include a fourth Omani Hajer Al Balushi, a member of Oman Sail’s thriving Women’s Sailing Programme, and Hannah Diamond, a former member of the British Olympic sailing squad who campaigns a Nacra 17.
Libby Greenhalgh, one of the world’s finest meteorologists, also comes to the Tour for the first time with her experience of thousands of racing miles, including a Volvo Ocean Race campaign in 2014/15, set to inspire her crew and race fans.
She raced with Caffari on Team SCA in the VOR then joined Caffari’s Oman Sail Farr 30 for the Farr 30 Internationals in Sweden last August which was used as a training platform for EFG SATT with Al Salmi, Al Khaifi and Al Balushi also honing their keelboat skills.
Annemeike Bes, the Dutch sailor who doubles as a coach and mentor will be joining Caffari once again.
“We are sailing with a 50% Omani female team so during this race we are hoping to enable and empower the Omani crew to take more responsibility and more ownership of the race team,” said Caffari. “We want to put in a credible and competitive performance.”
The DB Schenker team will be flying the flag for Oman Sail’s Women’s Sailing Programme which since it was established in 2011 has made great strides in changing perceptions of women in the Middle East by empowering Omani women and creating equal opportunities in the sport of sailing.
In EFG Sailing Arabia — The Tour, success will mean more than clocking up podium places. It will represent a step forward in breaking down barriers and changing perceptions.
But there are other aspects of the race to look forward to, said Ibtisam Al Salmi. “We are looking forward to getting back to competitive sailing and are already planning our campaign.
“The route is the reverse of last year’s so we’ll make the most of the long legs — with more wind — during the second half of the event. We are looking forward to it.”
EFG Sailing Arabia — The Tour is the only annual race of its type, with a mix of long offshore legs and intense in port racing, in the world and since it was first established in 2011, has become the most prestigious race in the Middle East with a reach and appeal that extends with each edition, among both recreational and professional sailors.
In 2017, it starts in Muscat, Oman, with the first in-port races before the fleet heads north to Sohar and around the tip of the Musandam Peninsula to Khasab.
Competitors must tackle the challenges posed by the congested Straits of Hormuz before racing to Abu Dhabi and then on to Doha for the second round of in-port races.
The last — and longest — leg to Dubai with the final round of in-port races will provide a final challenge to the crews striving for victory!