Inport racing, preparing for fishing nets, making progress!

Heading off tomorrow to Dubai with an early start at 7 am. Last year some of the most iconic photos came from a dawn start out of Abu Dhabi. The forecast is for light, upwind reaching, with some upwind work. The models are a bit mixed about how far to go offshore, but there are fishing nets and waypoints to handle so that will be determinative. Last year we had to navigate through the fishing nets at night, and it was a very difficult! Ugh. It is a shelf and miles of fishing nets… Allegedly, if you flatten the boat it will eventually “pop” up over the nets and get through, but while racing there last year felt like running aground and in one case we definitely didn’t get off, and had to have the local fisherman help us. Cutting nets away is a crime so this is serious business.

satt2014_home 2

Today was inport racing. Light and weird helicopter puffs off the skyscrapers made it difficult. We had good starts, but sometimes didn’t take the immediate risk to grab a temporary puff. In the end we did alright, but not great. The Omani women had fun, and today’s big lesson was learning about the importance of weight movement on the boats. I wish we had had more time to train before dropping them into racing, because it is hard to learn while in the middle of a race. Explanations get shorter, time and opportunity for trial and error get small, and focus on more specifics limits the big picture learning.

Tonight, two of the women missed the briefing (that we always have) for the next leg. I was pretty displeased, as our briefings are a basic requirement. It was puzzling and uncharacteristic of these two women. They tracked me down in my room late tonight to say how sorry they were. They had gone out, and ran into bad traffic (happens here), and couldn’t get back. They felt so bad; they weren’t going to be able to sleep without speaking to me. I appreciated that – we all muck up – and I have felt bad like that too. With a stern warning, we are good to go tomorrow. If that’s the worst of it, I think we can deal!

Today we were on the podium to receive our prize for 3rd place overall in the race. With many legs to go, its anyone’s game. It was absolutely fantastic to be able to have our team on the podium, and let the Omani women feel their rightful place to be in the mix with the best. Everyone deserves to know that feeling, although not without some sacrifice and hard work.

Click to track the race from the Sailing Arabia The Tour website!

Click to track the race from the Sailing Arabia The Tour website!

SATT Leg 2 ~ a fast ride to third place

Delayed Start – again

The start out of Doha was delayed because of customs (this is a reoccuring theme) so by the time of the start we had a solid 16 knots in the afternoon. The ride from Doha to Abu Dhabi was quick as expected, downwind the entire 159 miles, with some fire-hose spinnaker reaching in the middle of the night thrown in. The start out of Doha was delayed because of customs (this is a re-occurring theme) so by the time of the start we had a solid 16 knots in the afternoon. We battled it out inch by inch against EFG Bank (race favorites and eventual race winner) and Messr Frankfurt into the night changing positions back and forth with them.

Alt_Oman Sail 12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast and Furious Down Wind

This was the Omani womens’ first “real” offshore and full night out, so I was interested to see how they would cope with the physical and mental demands of the racing. I was hopeful that it wasn’t going to be too windy so that we could allow them to go down below in rotations to get an hour of sleep. Initially, with the wind square behind us, they could do that because the boat sails flat. However, as the wind headed us (went forward) making us sail a much higher, difficult angle we needed them sitting on the high side of the boat for balance. The sailing was fast and furious. At one stage we got into a high road – not -quite – luffing match with Messr Frankfort and won that one, but they dove low, sneaking by us.

Leg 2 SATT

Leaders emerge in the strain of competition

The Omanis were troopers and worked hard all night, even when they couldn’t keep their eyes open they continued to try. Epitsom, who is our one and only returning sailor from last year has really stepped up and proven herself to be an asset. She does all the jobs asked and has really grown in her skill set. During the night when it was hard, she was sending the other Omani girls down before taking her break. When her break came to an end she uncomplainingly came back up on deck. Onshore, Epitsom is the one who has asked for more coaching and feedback on what she needs to do to improve and about her strengths/weaknesses. We had a big coaching session last night and discussed her strengths in potential positions and also how to deal with outside naysayers – a concept we ALL have dealt with in our lives.

A Podium Finish!

We ended up finishing fourth for the leg, right behind Messr Franfort It was a great finish and the team did great work. Navigating the myriad waypoints and safety hazards was not an easy task – Liz took it on magnificently; Mary was fantastic trimming and doing some driving;and Lauren managed the bow and was a rock while trimming as well. After the finish, we found out there had been a port/starboard incident at the last rounding mark between EFG and Delft. EFG had filed a protest. The hearing was held yesterday and EFG won. Delft got thrown out for infringing the rule. The rule says that a boat on starboard has rights and a port boat must keep clear – just like right of way on roads. That means we move up to finishing third. So my goal of getting the girls on the podium has been fulfilled! I am pleased for them. I still want another podium, and of course will work hard to get that. There is a lot of racing left!

A shifty day of racing in Abu Dhabi

Today is the inport race in a tiny harbor in front of Abu Dhabi. The wind is crazy because it shifts amid the skyscrapers, and the water is very shallow and not well marked. Makes it a bit sketchy at times. Joining us for the inport race is a team from Abu Dhabi. Initially, they wanted to compete on the entire SATT race, but couldn’t get it done in time. Hopefully, this will get them some visibility and generate some sponsor interest, so they can join next year.

In port racing Leg 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Llyod Images for photos.

Training while racing: Leg 1 from Bahrain to Qatar

Bahrain to Qatar – 4th place!

After finishing fourth on the first leg from Bahrain we stopped here in Doha Qatar for a day of in-port racing just outside the Pearl Marina. 8-12 knots of wind gave us great training for our novice crew. I see a noticeable progression in the Omani women’s skills. Our 3rd place finish in race 2 was a great confidence boost to the team – thanks to a great start and good wind/strategy calls. We moved Raham, the young woman from the Oman Navy, up to helping at mast and floater position, and she is really enjoying the increased physicality of those jobs. She had previously been on main. Being a novice at both sailing and English proved a big challenge for everyone, as the main position is integral to the communication flow on board. Like any team, each position requires different skills and delivers unique attributes to the success formula, so figuring out who fits best into each role takes time. Ideally this would have been done far in advance during practice sessions. But with last minute team changes we are on a steep learning curve in the midst of competition.

 

Pearl Marina, Doha - Qatar

Pearl Marina, Doha – Qatar

Next leg – The longest from Doha Qatar to Abu Dhabi

The wind for our next leg looks stable and manageable. It should be a quick run. We will be under spinnaker with wind behind us the entire way, except for the short upwind leg with a turning mark. The route is filled with many navigational hazards such as oil fields, islands and shallows. Liz Baylis, our experienced navigator, will have her hands full plotting waypoints and keeping her eyes peeled for unlit marks – an increased challenge when racing under spinnaker. The current routing puts us into port early morning, around 6 am. This will give us a needed rest day in Abu Dhabi.

Getting into a Groove

As the event progresses and we continue to tune our boat, our team is starting to settle in and find a rhythm. I hope the progression continues for us. The other team competitors have commented to me on how well we are sailing, and it feels good to have them recognize the potential in our novice young women. Currently we are on the heels of the Dutch team, chasing them for third overall, with a lot of racing left to go. We have developed a great relationship with this team. In Bahrain, their navigator was very helpful with some of our electronic problems, and when their batteries died (no engine) after the finish of the first leg we threw them a tow line until a power boat came by to take over the job. This is a great part of the culture of sailing – although we are competitors, we are friends, allies and have each other’s backs.

Today we head off on the longest leg of the SATT – 160 nautical miles from Doha to Abu Dhabi.

Ok – off we go… wish us luck!
−Katie

 

Delay of start allows much needed prep/training time!

The first leg from Bahrain to Qatar of Sailing Arabia The Tour (SATT) 2014 was delayed. Katie Pettibone shares how she and her crew used the additional time before the race began:

More race delays = More time to train

Well, I didn’t envision on this chilly and windy night writing a blog from – well- Bahrain. Here we are though, and as an aside it is the right call, delayed on our leg from Bahrain to Qatar. The Race Committee boat was finally allowed out of customs and was put into the water this evening. As it had a bunch of needed safety gear and it is our escort vessel, it was the right call. We took advantage of the day as well to get a new boat GPS because we had been having electrical problems. Additionally, taking this new crew out on a windy sleigh ride in what will be a race during daylight hours instead of a cold night is simply much more enticing! I am really looking forward to heading south down to Doha and the warmer climes. Maybe living in California has softened me, but I do like my warmth!

Sprint_Doha copy

Debriefing the unexpected breakdown

Jib tackWe took the chance to do some practice in today’s 20+ knots. While out sailing, the tack clip on our new jib blew up. It had been sadly underwicked (to small for the loads) so it was bound to happen and it turns out it did happen to another boat. We got into the dock and quickly fixed it with the help of our hard working shore crew so that we will be able to use it tomorrow. These things go with a loud bang and lots of flapping so it seems all more the dramatic than it is, but it was really good training for the Omani women. Learning that the boat cannot move without the main sail being eased and what to do when something unexpected happens was a good learning moment. After we got to the dock and had the jib being sorted, we talked through what had happened and going forward how to better handle the situation with some taking the jib down and others getting the new jib ready.

Equipping for the future

The act of handling, accessing and planning for the unexpected is a trait that sailing is particularly adept at honing and is why sailors do well in all areas of life. By the end of this race, these Omani women will be able to take this skill forward and use it in whatever industries or adventures they pursue.

Katie checks in before Leg One ~ SATT 2014

Sailing Arabia The Tour 2014 runs from February 9-24, and will span four countries with stopovers in Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, Musandam, Mussanah and Muscat. Katie shares the team’s progress and obstacles before the start of the race:

Omani Women's Sailing Team ~ SATT 2014

Omani Women’s Sailing Team ~ SATT 2014

Delayed in Customs necessitates MacGyver-like ingenuity

It’s the morning of Leg one, and I am grabbing a quiet moment to check in. It has been a whirlwind couple of days. Upon arrival to Bahrain, we found that our boats, sails and gear were stuck in customs – and had been for a week. Eventually they were released – three days before the start. It has been a mad panic to get the masts in, brand new electronics installed and working, and of course the brand new sails set up. With no facilities, such as a workshop or sail loft, it is definitely a “make it work” kind of theme.

A very green team

Onboard is Mary Rook and Liz Baylis, each returning from a previous version of SATT. Ibtisam was with us last year, but never sailed in the offshore legs, so although she understands the nature of the race, the endurance aspect will be new. The rest of the team is brand new, including very novice sailors. Our vision is to continue to train the new Omani women in becoming not only good racing sailors, but also in the qualities that make good teammates and leaders in their own right. Things like ownership, teamwork, processing mistakes and learning from them, resilance, and of course communication. They are excited and have already been taking on the jobs – big or small – on the boat needed to get things done.

Omani Women’s Sailing Team ~ SATT 2014
Katherine Pettibone (USA)
Raiya Al Habsi (OMA)
Ibtisam Al Salmi (OMA)
Khaloud Al Uraimi (OMA)
Huda Al Mashrafi (OMA)
Raham Al Shezawi (OMA)
Elisabeth Baylis (USA)
Mary Rook (GBR)

Managing expectations & keeping focused on the goal

Unfortunately, we only have about one hour collectively sailing as a total team, and we are facing tough competition. All but one boat is a returning, talented team from previous versions of the SATT. The one which is the exception – EFG Bank, armed with incredible professional talent and two of Oman’s top sailors, and is currently the favorite of the race. The good news is this sets a high bar to work for, and that is good for performance goals. The bad news is that it can be tough on morale if realistic goals aren’t set. Myself and Liz Baylis (who is navigator and tactician) will have to manage those expectations.

Getting ready for Leg One

The calm before the storm – girls stretch and relax an hour before the start of Leg 1.

Opening ceremony then a shakedown leg in the dark

This morning is the opening ceremony with a member of Bahrain’s royal family expected. The weather is rainy and cold however, so he may not come. After that the start is supposed to be at 1:00 pm, with a northwest wind of 20+ knots to send us flying over to Doha, Qatar. I believe the start will be postponed, so we are probably looking at 4:30 or 5:00 pm start. Just a tiny bit of time to sail in daylight before sailing all night in the dark, honing off downwind, turning right at the tip of Qatar. Thankfully, the course is pretty straightforward for the first leg. It will be a short leg, and it will get our team comfortable with off-the-wind sailing and entail a spinnaker peel, which we did practice in yesterday’s one hour of sailing. Looking forward to seeing how we handle the night.

and Big Thanks!

My profuse thanks to Predict Wind for sponsoring us, and allowing us use of their product – the widely known best routing and information over here in Oman. It’s a fantastic aid. We encourage people to check it out and their soon-to-be released iPad app. www.predictwind.com

Wish us luck!
   −Katie Pettibone

SATT 2014 route