How Oman Sail became home to some of the Arab world’s finest yachtsmen

Sitting at the easternmost tip of the Arabian Gulf, Oman is land with a long maritime history.

Historically, like in the neighbouring UAE, it was a land which had long produced fishermen and expert divers who would scrape the seabeds of the Gulf to search for precious pearls.

But it was only in very recent times that Oman turned into a hub for contemporary sailing in the region.

In 2008, at the decree of Sultan Qaboos, Oman Sail was established as a symbol of the land’s seafaring heritage and a haven for sailing and yachting lovers in the Sultanate. It would prove to be a game-changer.

Quickly it developed into far more than just a local clubhouse and marina.

In less than a decade, Oman Sail, a non-profit organisation, became a breeding ground for talented young sailors, a sailing destination for yachtsmen and women from the Gulf and beyond, and a regular stop on the global sailing circuit.

In fact, the first Arab to sail around the world was a product of Oman Sail.

Mohsin Al Busaidi’s story is a truly inspiring one. Born and raised in Old Muscat with 11 other siblings, and having worked long hours in the navy, he developed a taste for sailing.

He joined Oman Sail in the same year it was established, and, remarkably, after a punishing training schedule of six months, he would go on to circumnavigate the globe alongside two Frenchmen and an Englishman in 2019.

Al Busaidi was not the only Oman Sail alumni to make a name for himself in the following years.

Muscat’s Extreme Sailing team, The Wave, won the Extreme Sailing Series Championships in 2012 and repeated their achievement a year later, with the crew of Skipper Leigh McMillan, Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh wrapping up the title in Florianopolis, Brazil. 

In the meantime, Oman’s female sailors were spreading their sails to reach  Europe, where Raiya Al Habsi made history by becoming the first Arab woman to compete in the classic Fastnet race and to ever to be nominated for the prestigious Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award.

Oman Sail was developing a reputation for sailing excellence in the Gulf, and in the following years their achievements began to rack up

In 2014, MOD 70 Musandam-Oman Sail, the organization’s flagship boat,  broke the Round Britain and Ireland record by over 16 minutes, thrusting Oman Sail into the sporting spotlight again.

The 70-ft boat, which races in the Multi One Design (MOD) 70 series against some of the world’s most elite sailors, was now becoming synonymous with the Sultanate, much to the delight of the country’s Ministry of Tourism. It was, quite simply, a sea-crossing advert for Oman.

A year later, Musandam-Oman Sail broke a 20-year landmark by completing the Round Ireland speed challenge in a record time of in 40 hours 51 minutes and 57 seconds, slashing an impressive four hours off the previous time.

Today, these early sailors stand as role models for future generations of Omani girls and boys.

While inspiration comes from those pioneers who put Oman on the sailing map, Oman Sail’s four schools – Al Mouj in Muscat, Sur Sailing School, Marina Bandar Al Rowdha and Mussanah Sailing School – offer a variety of programmes and classes for beginners and more advanced sailors of all ages.

The future of sailing in Oman, like its past, is in safe hands.

Royal Yacht Britannia docks in Abu Dhabi
How Oman Sail became home to some of the Arab world’s finest yachtsmen