Oman Sail’s six strong optimist youth squad is heading to Oran, Algeria to compete in the International Optimist Dinghy Associations Optimist African Championships 2015 where they will face 70 other sailors from 10 nations.
With two members of the team reaching 15, the upper age limit for IODA Optimist racing, and graduating to Laser 4.7, this race will see the introduction of Ghassan Al Hosni, aged 10, and Mohammed Al Qasmi, 11, to the squad.
Al Hosni and Al Qasmi will join other members of the Omantel’s Youth Programme, co-sponsored by Oman Shipping Company, Zakariya Al Wahaibi, Samiha Al Riyami, Almotasem Al Farsi and Marwan Al Jabri who are all now seasoned Optimist campaigners after spending up to three years in the class.
After the squad’s success in 2014, where Al Jabri achieved 24th in the fleet racing competition and Oman beat twelve other national teams from across Africa, Asia and Europe to come second in the team racing event, hopes are high that results in 2015 will be even better.
“Both Zakariya and Marwan are reaching the upper age limit so this will be one of their last events before they embark on different sailing classes that are appropriate for their age. We see this as an opportunity for our new young talent to take on the mantle,” said Rashid Al Kindi, Oman Sail’s National Youth Team Manager.
“Last year we were second in the team racing so now we would like to at least repeat that and also improve on our fleet racing performances. We are quite confident we can do that but our focus must also be on giving our new youngsters Ghassan and Mohammed some exposure to international competition since they will be our main protagonists in 2016,” he added.
The squad will arrive in Oran, a major city on the northwestern Mediterranean coast of Algeria, four days before the championships start for a training camp to acclimatise them to the conditions. Each day, they can expect a sea breeze to kick in giving them between 15 and 20 knots of wind and up to 30 degrees heat.
“They have not sailed in Algeria before so they will be able to get used to Mediterranean conditions,” said Abdulaziz Al Shidi, Oman’s Optimist National Coach “This training will be valuable because they will have to sail against the best sailors from the other countries. We are confident because our team has been competing since 2012 and we improve every year,”
Racing in the 2015 Optimist African Championships will start on Friday October 2nd following a practice race on Thursday with the finals scheduled for Wednesday October 7th culminating in a prize giving ceremony.