Great sailing, rugged beauty… and did I mention sea snakes?

Leg 5 ~ Ras Al Khaimah to Zighy Bay in Oman ~ via the Strait of Hormuz

Our stopover at Six Senses Resort, Zighy Bay, has been an amazing slice of heaven, and a much-needed rejuvenation. The resort is beautiful, serene and eco-friendly. I highly recommend it, and will definitely be visiting their resorts in the future!

Mountains in Background

Leg 5 was long, and sometimes painful, but we made it after nearly two days and one night. This leg includes the internationally famous Strait of Hormuz. The start, leaving Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), was a nightmare. Two of our passports had been incorrectly stamped somewhere in the process, which when we went to leave, caused an 8 hour delay! The Race Committee had arranged for an early morning start – so we were up at 5:00 am – only to wait, and wait, and wait until 2:00 pm to finally leave the dock. Really frustrating. It was upwind the coast of UAE in a good, but quickly clocking and dying breeze. Early in the night we were on spinnakers heading up to the top. Going through the strait in the dark (again), under spinnaker through a little hole and sheer cliffs, allowed us to not have to circumvent the strait entirely on the outside. Once we popped through to the other side of the gulf, the wind died for all competitors. It was a restart, with all of us floating around. Luckily for us, we were positioned in on the shore, and were able to grab some zephers and move along with a couple of other boats. Others were not so lucky, and hung around for hours before they could move. At one stage we were in 2nd! The wind was fickle, however. Although we were moving, EFG Bank grabbed another piece of wind, and were able to sneak by us – knocking us off the podium. Argggh! But being fourth was a great move up for the team, and the girls were very happy.

Sea-snakeDid I mention that on this leg we saw a ton of sea snakes? During this tour I have seen more sea snakes than ever before, but on this leg it was amazing to see the amount, and the variations! (Most of the 62 species grow to between 3.9-4.9 ft in length, with the largest, reaching 9.8 ft. Despite the venom being highly toxic to humans, sea snakes usually present little threat.) National Geographic Photo

The girls struggle with night sailing, and not sleeping. At this stage of the race they are tired. Light air sailing requires immense concentration, but very small and nuanced movements. This is hard for new sailors who are exhausted, but they kept trying, and although they would zone-out, and require prodding, they kept good attitudes. Intisar did a tremendous job at trimming in light air, wavy conditions – she has really come a long way. All the girls have come a long way. One of the things that we have continued to work on is to drink enough water, and go to the bathroom on the boat. If one doesn’t drink enough water, performance suffers greatly, plus it is simply not healthy. So to incentivize this, in the last port I announced a competition. The Omani girl who drank the most bottles of water, and used the bathroom the most, would get a spa treatment of their choice at Six Senses Resort… and I would pay. It worked wonders! I have to go up to the office shortly to pay for that. 🙂

Girls in-port racing

Today, we leave on a very long leg to Mussanah, Oman, which is where the training facility of Oman Sail Keelboat Teams is located, and essentially has been home to the girls. Their friends, and old instructors will be there. It will be quick, as we finish in the afternoon, and then leave the next day for the final leg into Muscat. It has been such a good journey for the girls thus far. There is much to reflect upon, but they have really taken it on. Yesterday’s in-port race in Zighy Bay utilized the full Omani crew, with coach Niall and Dee onboard. The race was not counted, but it allowed our Omani girls to do it all, and own it. A good experience – although Tahira told me later, that she missed having the coaches onboard, and wanted us back on – pronto!

Here’s hoping to keeping the wind today, and tonight!


Photos by Lloyd Images & National Geographic

Leg 5 ~ Our ladies place 4th!

The fifth leg of Sailing Arabia The Tour saw the eight competing Farr 30 one designs set sail from Al Hamra in Ras Al Khaimah, bound for Zighy Bay in Oman ~ via the Strait of Hormuz, and past the most visually spectacular part of the race course… the flat desert giving way to the mountainous Musandam Peninsula.

2013 SATT map








The 24 hour long leg was a tense game of snakes and ladders for the majority of the competitors. Only AISM consistently performed well, leading for the majority of the leg. Bertrand Pace and the crew of AISM have won their fourth consecutive offshore leg of the tour. Some, including Cedric Pouligny-steered BAE Systems, lying in second place overall, got stuck along the course and found themselves racing among the backmarkers. For others the most tactically tricky leg to date worked in their favor, with Kay Heemskerk’s Delft Challenge – TU Delft scoring their best result of the whole race, coming home in second place.

Leg 5Finish times:

1. AISM – 15:29:59

2. Delft – 16:17:33

3. EFG Bank (Monaco) – 16:36:59

4. Al Thuraya – 17:02:10

Fourth place winner, Al-Thuraya Bank Muscat, is skippered by Rising Tide Leadership Institute Ambassador Dee Caffari, with and an all female crew: Sarah Hornby, Elizabeth Bayliss, RTLI Ambassador Katie Pettibone, Basma Al Nofali, Raiya Al Habsi, Rajaa Al Uwaisi, Ibtisam Al Salmi, Tahira Al Yahyaee and Asrar Al Ajmi

Photos by Lloyd Images

Leg 3 & 4 ~ Amazing skylines, tired sailors & gill nets

What a whirlwind it has been, adding Dubai as a pit stop, into the mix of Sailing Arabia The Tour. A day of rest was taken from the Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), UAE, stopover, so that the fleet could do a quick jaunt to the city. If going into Doha, Qatar, at night reminds one of Las Vegas, then going into Dubai at night is like going to Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Amazing buildings, and skyline… We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express – a brief taste of home!

Leg 4-SATT Dubai

The Omani girls have been making solid progress, but like all progress it is a couple steps forward, and a couple steps back. This especially occurs when they are tired. In the in-port race at Abu Dhabi, the girls racing were on fire. They were trimming, attentive, the kite went up and down smoothly (for the most part), and we had a good result. However, a race like this is an endurance race, so our long nights and early mornings were especially telling by their exhaustion. They are not used to it, and its hard to train for. With prize giving, and lunch in the sun, the girls were pretty tired that night. Because of the added pit stop in Dubai, and a well thought out desire to finish in daylight or early evening, the start the next morning from Abu Dhabi was breakfast at 4:00 am, bus at 4:30/5:00 am, and off the dock at 6:00 am. In our debrief, prior to the leg to Dubai, we discussed that it takes some time to ‘get going’ in the mornings. Because of this, we told the girls to be on the 4:30 am bus. The next morning, the girls not only missed the bus, they failed to show up (metaphorically) until late in the morning! We coaches completely rigged the boat, sorted the food, water and made sure that all were off the dock timely.

The 4th SATT leg was a really nice sail, and by late morning when our Omani girls started to wake up, they got into it – but it took a lot of time. The finish was hard fought, with the Dutch. We had been fighting them the entire way, and were literally only meters off their stern as we came towards the finish line. Although we faked them out with a fake gybe to break away, they had the favored side of the course, and just beat us. It was a nice day.

Leg 4 - close up

The race from Dubai to RAK was meant to start at 10:00 am in the morning, in order to have raced in daylight – which as it turns out, would have been a dramatically better situation. Due to a complete fiasco with customs, we were delayed on shore until 1:30 am. This caused us to get into RAK at midnight, with an immediate turn-around in the morning to head to the boats for in-port racing! UGH. However, being tired ended up the least of our concerns, because it turned out the leg was covered in huge swaths of gill nets – most portions unlit with occasional flashers, and fisherman flashing lights at us at one end (if you were lucky). If you check the tracker you will see that our fleet would be moving along, and then be brought to a shuddering halt. This caused some to wipeout, from going downwind, and then becoming mired in the fishing nets. Some got off, some did not, and required fisherman to help, or sailors to jump in to try to clear the nets (dangerous). We were in fifth at the first waypoint, but after dodging a few nets, our time was up. We ended up firmly stuck in a huge net for over an hour. As competitors sailed away, I contemplated jumping in, but there were fisherman coming, so I decided to wait. The girls handled the wipeouts and craziness well – and negotiated help from the fisherman in arabic, which was handy. Eventually, we got going, and it was us and the Dutch again, heading toward the finish. But this time the wind died, and we didn’t make the time limit. So frustrating, and we didn’t get to the hotel until 1:00 am. Double UGH.

Leg 4 in-port sailing

So today, at 11:00 am, was in-port racing. The girls were physically shattered. We rotated in our two backups to give Tahira and Raja a break. Raiya and Intisar, our veterans, were onboard. Intisar is trimming and has really come a long way. Raiya, taking on the big job of bow, and having been seasick the night before, was showing signs of exhaustion today. But like the amazing trooper she is, she put on a brave face, and took it on. Tomorrow’s leg is the second longest, and also a very difficult one around the Strait of Hormuz. A tricky place to sail. Our briefing is at 7:00 pm tonight, and I am sure we will cover safety again. I believe we will be required to stay even closer to land than last year. The good news is that as of the time I headed over here, there was no pirate activity, and it appears pretty quiet. At any rate, I believe we will have a military escort again, and besides – one of the boats is from the Oman Navy, so what can go wrong? 🙂


Photos by Lloyd Images

Girls take 5th on Leg 3 to Dubai!

“Coming in 5th, Al Thuraya Bank Muscat, at 17:58:04.”
Go girls! Detailed race information coming soon from Rising Tide Leadership Institute Ambassador, Katie Pettibone…

Sunrise start to Dubai

Start of Leg 3, Abu Dhabi at sunrise ~ ending in Dubai at sunset

In-port racing in Abu Dhabi ~ the girls were on fire!

We had in-port racing today, inside the harbor at Abu Dhabi. It was a beautiful day with three races set in sunny, 8-10 knots. Our first race was a bit of a warm-up, as we got off the line slow, and didn’t get a lane to go to the favored side. The next two races we ended up in fourth, and fifth place. The girls were on fire! They have really taken to heart the coaching, and the debrief we had from our previous legs, and in-port race. They did a great job today, and it was really heartening to see their progress. This year both Intisar and Tahira are trimming, and are completely responsible, with just oversight from us coaches – but it is them doing the job. The same with Raiya, who is on bow. Bow is a tough job – tons of lines and maneuvers to manage, and she is taking it on. Eptisam was in the pit today, and was so attentive to all the voices making demands on adjustments of the controls she was in charge of… And Tahira, who is normally a trimmer, got moved to a floater position. She was tasked with making sure the spinnaker was down in the boat when we had to round the leeward mark, and head back upwind. This had been an issue from the previous in port race… She was terrific – and worked her tail off!

Our girls working in-port race at AbuDhabi

Our girls in-port racing at Abu DhabiThese girls are taking it on, and are improving all the time. Some of the remaining challenges include continuing to get them to eat, and even more difficult – to drink water. It is noticeable when they don’t, as concentration ebbs… But we have changed the sandwiches to rolls with cucumber and hummus, or chicken, cheese and hummus – so that appears to be more desirable. Still have to work on the water…

Kids watching in-port racing in Abu Dhabi

These boys had the opportunity to see the only all-female crew – Al-Thuraya Bank Muscat – in the fleet racing equally against the men’s teams. (Click on photo to read SATT article)

Tomorrow we’re off the dock at 6 am, with a 6:30 am start. The goal is to be in Dubai by dark. With the current forecast we should be there by 6 pm, which means hurrying to the hotel, eat, debrief and then up the next morning to race to Ras Al Khaimah. A whirlwind! It is a shame as I would have liked to have seen Dubai, but never mind – another time!


Photos by Lloyd Images