Oman sails into history in first transatlantic yacht race

Story highlights

  • The "Musandam-Oman Sail" yacht is the first Arab yacht to complete a transatlantic race
  • In 2009 Moshin Al Busaidi became the first Arab to sail non-stop around the world
  • The "Musandam-Oman Sail" crew completed the race in just over five days
  • The "Omani Sail" project aims to train thousands of Omani youths in sailing

An Omani yacht has made history by becoming the first Arabic yacht to cross the Atlantic Ocean during the KRYS Ocean Race.

The competition, which features some of the world's fastest multihull yachts, started in New York City on July 7 and finished in the French maritime city of Brest less than a week later where they were greeted by hundreds of spectators attending the Les Tonnerres de Brest Festival.

The crew of the 70 feet trimaran "Musandam-Oman Sail" managed to take the lead early on in the race and held their position at the front of the fleet for the first 24 hours, before being struck by bad luck.

One of the boat's foils - the wing-like structure that lifts the hull up out of the water and increases its speed -- snapped off, and for the remainder of the race the yacht could only sail at 70% of its normal performance capacity.

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Despite this setback the crew managed to reach speeds up to 39 knots and finished the race in fourth place -- crossing the Atlantic in an impressive 5 days, 7 hours, 5 minutes and 38 seconds.

See also: Is Middle East becoming international sailing capital

"It was a real challenge to finish once we had lost the foil, our speed dropped so much so we knew we had to do something drastic to fix it," said Moshin Al Busaidi, the 37-year-old Omani sailor who shot to fame in 2009 when he became the first Arab to sail non-stop around the world in just 76 days.

To stand a chance of finishing the race in a decent time the crew of the Omani yacht decided to try and move one of the working foils on the port side of the vessel to replace the broken one on the starboard side.

Watch: Oman's princess of the sea

"We gave ourselves one hour to try and fix the boat or we would have lost too much time, we didn't know if it would work but I am glad it did. We still don't know how the foil broke but it is swimming with the fishes now," he said.

Al Busaidi, who had never sailed before joining the Sultan of Oman's Navy as young man, was joined aboard the "Musandam-Oman Sail" by his fellow 29-year-old countryman Fahad Al Hasni who has only been sailing for three years.

Despite his limited experience, Al Hasni proved to be a very gifted helmsman.

"He made our MOD70 go demonstrably faster," said British record-breaking sailor Brian Thompson who was part of the boat's international crew. "This was a major surprise for the rest of the crew. Fahad has only been sailing for three years but he has great control and the ability to concentrate for really long periods of time."

"It was fantastic to discover this talent amongst us," added the British multihull legend, who in April was a member of the fastest crew to race around the world.

Both Al Busaidi and Al Hasni are part of the "Oman Sail" project, which aims to encourage people across Omani society to take up the sport. In the past three years it has taught thousands of children how to sail and it is also helping to develop a women's squad in an effort to boost Oman's Olympic chances.

See also: Abu Dhabi steps out of Dubai's shadows

After becoming the first Arab to sail around the world, Al Busaidi became a national hero in Oman and an ambassador for the "Omani Sail" project.

"I am very proud of what I have achieved so far but it is important for me to give something back to the community," said Al Busaidi, who is heading back to Oman for Ramadan before re-joining his crew for the summer's European sailing tour.

"Sailing changed my life for the better so I try and lead the kids, to try and help them change their lives too. I love my country and I want to help make it better," he added.

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