From 2nd in 25 knots to 6th in light air – these girls prefer BIG BREEZE!

4th leg start… and re-start…

What a whirlwind… The fourth leg had a rather inauspicious beginning as we were shut out at the start and had to tack, bear away, gibe and start after behind most of the fleet.  With a dying breeze,  everyone drifted around until a few zephyrs re-emerged and got us going enough to all pile up after the first windward mark. Then, finally,  the wind started to fill.  We went right and shortly were one of the top four boats heading up the coast of the UAE. Max wind forecast for the leg was 14 knots.  Instead we were smashed up the coast in 25 knots on the nose, tacking up and into the Strait of Hormuz.  The GOOD news about that is that it kept us on the beach, in lifts along the shore and well inside the 10 nautical mile limit set by the race committee. The BAD news was that there were BIG waves and it turned into a very cold and wet leg.  We moved up to second in the big breeze!

From 2nd in big breeze to dodging cliffs in no wind…

After the rounding top gate the course allowed us to go inside some islands on the northeastern part of the Oman.  This kept us inside and well away from any potential trouble with Iranians or pirates. We rounded the top mark in the middle of the night – complete inky blackness. One of the waypoints we had to cross was a 400 meter hole between two jagged cliffs.  At that exact point, the wind completely shut off giving us a period of ‘high anxiety’ as the current washed us towards the wave shattering rocks. Fortunately, we finally made it out of that vortice.  Having lost two boats in that black hole we put a spinnaker up and headed down towards Dibba. When the sun rose, the fleet was flip flopped with some new teams ahead of us in the mix, like Team Bahrain, and a top team like BAE behind. Clearly others had struggled that night as well. We ended the leg in 6th – Very frustrating after our earlier big-breeze success.

5-Star accommodations (almost) make up for a disappointing finish…

Upon our arrival, we found ourselves staying at the Six Senses at Zighy Bay Resort. They are very supportive of the women’s team and Dee had a previous good relationship with the resort. (Yay for Dee!!!!) The resort has been in a word- AMAZING. Extraordinarily gracious & helpful staff and outstanding accommodations outstanding- including our own infinity pool were only eclipsed by the FOOD!. I’m eating like every meal is my last one for the month (and the pants are definitely tighter!). This simple, restful elegant ambiance is washing away the wear and tear of the last leg. The only problem of course will be prying us out of here tomorrow!

Undersecretary at the Ministry of Tourism gives prizes on the beach…

The resort hosted the prize giving on the beach (see pictures) and the owner of the resort and the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism were there on hand to support the event. The Undersecretary was particularly interested in meeting the women’s team and we were able to take a picture with her. A wonderful honor.

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Leg 5 tomorrow – back to our training grounds – Mussanah!

The Omani women sailors have come a LONG way… and want to keep sailing ☺

With only two legs left, talk and thoughts have turned towards the end and what happens next. Of course we want a good result but for the goal of the team and what it was meant to achieve, Al Thurya has been a success. The Omani women who have raced with us on this race have been exemplary and hard-working. They have shown that Arabic women can do this just as well as their male counterparts. The offshore coach asked the women what they wanted to do and they told him they wanted to continue to do MORE.

Moving on is a BIG step – training and sailing with men…

He wanted to know if they would want to train with the men’s team because currently there are not enough women to continue on with just a women’s boat- because we professionals will all go back to our corners of the world and our lives despite them wanting us to stay and continue on this journey with them. It is heartening to see how they have the respect and camaraderie with the Omani male sailors – they have trained in the gym together and now raced on the same sea in harsh conditions. There is a real mutual respect that comes with sharing these experiences. The girls seemed really open to that concept.

However, when the coach (who is British I might add) started to inquire about sailing offshore with men, there was some balking. One of the sailors expressed concerns about pushing too hard and trying to change culture too fast. Heck, even westerners wonder about mixed teams offshore because although it seems simple to athletes, the idea of living in close proximity with the other sex makes some wonder. If you have ever bashed around in big waves and pulled sails down in forty knots with walls of seawater trying to wash you down the boat, you would realize that there is nothing to worry about because  it’s like climbing Everest, but for some they see it like a Mediterranean cruise where it is all fun and potential trouble. [Read more…]

Hello from Abu Dhabi!

Fight to the finish – it’s anyone’s game

The race from to Abu Dhabi was long, most of it upwind. The good news was our speed was generally good, until we took on massive amounts of weed in the night. Lost some places there, but after a back down, it was time to start chipping away and hunt our competitors. Our work paid off.  After we rounded some islands and the morning light came through, we started identifying our near competitors, and we were in touch with the leaders. Going into the finish the wind got light and flukey, and it was a battle between us, Commercial Bank (helmed by the renowned French sailor Bertrand pace), and Team Renaissance. It was a close finish!

Members of Team Renaissance and Bank Muscat

Members of Team Renaissance and Bank Muscat

Task #1: Sail repair/replacement

In Abu Dhabi we had a day off to do laundry, personal time, etc… Dee and I went down to the boat to check on a few jobs. My mission was to either find a sail loft (to repair a fractional spinnaker we had blown up during the previous night’s fight to the finish) or to find a spare. Allegedly there were neither here, so I was very concerned! But I finally found  ONE spare spinnaker for the fleet, which we now have. Sadly, it is a runner fractional, which means the shape is not as good as other teams. Alas, at least we have one. [Read more…]

Women finish third during in-port racing at RAK

Tight in-port racing

After a huge welcome barbeque last night, today was tight in-port racing. It was held just outside the yacht club in a very narrow patch of water, with the committee boat moored about 150 feet from rocks where we started!  The race was two laps of up/downs and with docks on one side of the course, sand spits/shore on the other side, and a top mark all of 50 feet from the shore.  The action was fast and furious!

We ended up third overall, which was terrific, but (more importantly) with no damage!  Such tight action can result in boats colliding, and today was no exception. Luckily, we were able to avoid that calamity and are ready to go for tomorrow.