The opening races of the 2016 season are on the horizon. Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling tops the leaderboard as six teams will line up for the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Oman from February 27-28, marking the first time a country in the Middle East will host America’s Cup racing.
The teams aren’t the only ones gearing up for a special event, though, Oman’s top young sailors are set for a day to remember when they compete in a special race as part of theWorld Series Oman in Muscat.
Part of a joint venture between Oman Sail and the America’s Cup Endeavour programme aimed at inspiring young sailors, the once-in-a-lifetime experience will leave members of Oman’s National Youth Squad with a clear understanding of the America’s Cup, sailing’s equivalent of the football World Cup, and what it takes to compete at the highest level.
But it is not just about showing them the AC 45 foiling boats, which happen to be amongst the fastest racing boats on the planet or introducing them to the amazing sailors who fly them round the courses. It is more about giving them an opportunity to show off their own skills and ‘wow’ a crowd of proper big guns in the sailing world.
The 20 children, made up of 14 of Oman’s best young Optimist sailors and six older sailors specialising in 29ers and Lasers, will arrive at Oman Sail’s Al Mouj Sailing School and rig their boats before heading off to the technical area where the America’s Cup AC45 foiling catamarans are docked. After a tour of the boats – and some informed explanation of what makes them so incredibly fast – the young sailors will return to their own boats….and go racing! In front of crowds gathered in the Hospitality Village, they will go all out to prove who is the best Optimist sailor of the day in what is expected to be a hard fought contest.
And when the winners are decided, they will be transferred back to the VIP area in the Hospitality Village to meet the six America’s Cup superstar skippers, including British celebrity Sir Ben Ainslie who in 2011 was skipper of Oman Sail’s Extreme 40, Oman Air in the Extreme Sailing Series, as well as America’s Cup rivals Jimmy Spithill and Dean Barker.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for Oman’s young sailors to show off their skills and ask questions of these amazing sailors about what it takes to reach the top,” said Mohsin Al Busaidi, Oman Sail’s Youth Manager.
“There are not many young sailors who can say they have had tips from Sir Ben Ainslie or Jimmy Spithill so we hope they take full advantage of their chats with the champions.”
David Graham, CEO of Oman Sail said the importance of engaging youth in the top sailing events could never be underestimated.
“Everything we do at Oman Sail is geared to inspire and create opportunities for our youth sailors with the aim to one day have an Omani sailor racing in the America’s Cup or winning an Olympic medal,” he said.
“Our National Youth Squad sailors represent a bright future for sailing in Oman and we are sure that the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series will make other boys and girls around the Sultanate curious to come on board and have some fun.”
America’s Cup Endeavour has parallel aims – to leave a sporting legacy in Bermuda where the 2017 America’s Cup will be held and where all the teams will be based in the run up to the Cup.
To achieve this aim, the America’s Cup Event Authority has launched a range of initiatives with AC Endeavour, including gifting a fleet of Optimist dinghies, which have been refurbished by ORACLE TEAM USA, to kids who have ‘graduated’ from AC Endeavour so they may continue sailing. A cross-curricular STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Education Programme is at the heart of the initiative, where students participate in experiential learning to increase their understanding of water safety and sailing, as well as developing self-reliance, responsibility and teamwork. Sailing takes place on Hobie Waves, RS Fevas and O’pen Bic dinghies.
And some of the top male and female college sailors in the US are visiting Bermuda to learn what it takes to become a professional sailor with ORACLE TEAM USA.
“We launched our AC Endeavour programme in Bermuda last October and already it has been a great success,” said ACEA CEO Russell Coutts. “We are now expanding it to allow kids at our other venues to participate. Some of them wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity to be part of such an event so it is vital that the America’s Cup uses its influence to encourage broader participation in our sport for the future.”