OMAN - The sultan promotes award-winning female sailing team

http://www.ansa.it/web/notizie/specializzati/mare/2014/01/24/-Vela-Oman-donne-timone-volere-sultano_9958127.html

 The Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said, has gender equality at heart, and since granting women the vote in 1997, has added sailing to his list of tools to promote parity between the sexes.

Launched in 2011, the Omani Women's Sailing Program is part of a wider program from 2008 called Oman Sail, whose aim is to rekindle the maritime heritage of this country on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula, that has been self-governing since the 17th century and had its own empire, vying with Portugal and Britain for influence in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

But now the objectives are different: to foster a new generation of women sailors, pupils and instructors, to compete internationally, and, ultimately, to enter a women's sailing team into the 2020 Olympics - with the added bonus of attracting more tourists and creating job opportunities for young men and women.

Initially reticent families eventually let their daughters sign up for sailing classes, which are open to kids aged eight and up. Of the thousands that joined, 75% are girls.

From all over the country, more than 150 women aged 18-35, many of whom hadn't yet learned to swim, also applied. Of these, 30 made the grade and were selected into the program for future sailing instructors. Their teachers were recruited from among the world's experts, including British two-time Olympic gold medalist Shirley Robertson (Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004), and Dee Caffari, the first woman to sail single-handedly non-stop around the world ''the wrong way'' - westward against the prevailing winds and currents - and the first woman to sail solo, non-stop, around the world in both directions.

The program is bearing fruit, for Oman now has a six-member female team, the Al Thuraiya Bank Muscat women's team: they train every day, in the gym and on the water, their hair held back in the traditional hijab veil, and compete internationally.

It is also reaping the first awards: Nashwa Al Kindi, 31, in November was awarded the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) President Development Award for outstanding achievement in the development of sailing and for being an instrumental figure in the development of female sailors and coaches in Oman. She is also the only Omani woman who rides around the country on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Raiya Al Habsi, 25, made history in 2013 when she became the first Omani woman to sail the Rolex Fastnet Race on Oman's flagship trimaran. As a result, she was the first female Arab sailor to receive a nomination for ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year.

 

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SOURCE: ANSAmed




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