Oman’s best young sailors found themselves under pressure at the 2016 edition of Mussanah Race Week, organised by Oman Sail, but stepped up to the plate to confirm a strong all-round improvement against the best talents in the world. According to observers, performance levels in the Optimist class were markedly higher than in previous years with one of the favourites Lucas Vidella from Argentina sweeping to a resounding overall victory with a dominant display and Daniel Ian Toh from Singapore, last year’s Mussanah champion, in second place.
Al Moatsem Al Farsi, who won the best Under 12 prize in 2015 was Oman’s best performing Optimist sailor with a clutch of top 10 finishes from the gold fleet qualifiers and finals, to achieve 21st out of a field of 105 young sailors, many of whom were champions in their own countries and regions.
Four other Omani youngsters, including girls champion Samiha Al Riyami, were happy to finish in the top half of the fleet while another 23 sailors, drawn from Oman Sail’s sailing schools around the Sultanate and sampling international competition for the first time, contributed to Oman’s set of promising results.
Former Optimist national champion Zakariya Al Wahabi showed his move up into the Laser 4.7 class had posed few problems when he pulled off four straight wins from 12 races to become champion, fending off challenges from a strong Finnish contingent with Marwan Al Jafri coming fifth.
There was also an Omani winner in the Laser Radial class where Hussain Al Jabri proved the most consistent performer of 18 contenders, including four representatives from the Sultanate.
“There was a very high level of racing in the Optimist class and many competitors who were competing at Mussanah Race Week for the second time said they thought it was harder in 2016,” said Oman Sail Youth Manager, Mohsin Al Busaidi, the first Arab to sail round the world non-stop.
“It was a very worthwhile experience for the Omani kids because they were exposed to a level of competition that they might only come across at a world championships so they learned a great deal. We had wonderful conditions all week with 25 degree heat and between 8 and 15 knots of breeze so it was very successful. The Laser fleet was not as competitive as the Optimists but it was still a challenge for the Omani kids and they did well.
“Most of them had raced Optimists so it was useful for them to experience the next rung on the ladder. We were very happy with the numbers of overseas sailors and many said they would be back next year which is encouraging,” Al Busaidi added.
The Mussanah Race Week came to a final showdown under the patronage of His Excellency Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Balushi, Majlis Al Shura Representative in Mussanah. This year, Mussanah Race Week featured two additional sailing classes, the Laser Radial and Laser 4.7, for the first time since 2011, with some of the world’s best young sailors coming to enjoy ideal sailing conditions combined with some intensive coaching.