Team Al Thuraya hopes to challenge for honours this year as the only all-women crew takes on the men during the 2015 EFG Sailing Arabia-The Tour (SATT), to be held from February 15-26.

Skipper Mary Rook, returning for her third SATT, is fully aware of the strength of the opposition, but the seven members of her team, a mix of Omani and international sailors, have agreed on one thing – to compete hard throughout the race.

Rook said, “The field is looking very tough this year with a lot of other good teams. So it will be hard to put a number on where we hope to finish until we get started. But as ever, we would love to beat the Omani men’s team. This year, we have Ibtisam al Salmi, who had taken part in the SATT with me once before and last summer became an expert trimmer on the J80 in France. She is the best woman sailor we have.”

The Al Thuraya skipper added, “Also in the team, we have Raiya al Habsi, who was one of the first women from the Oman Sail Women’s Sailing Programme to join the SATT and the first Omani woman to take part in the Rolex Fastnet Race. She is back again this year to keep us entertained.

“We also have two more sailors from the women’s programme. And we have Annemeike Bes from The Netherlands, a three-time Olympian and a silver medallist from the 2008 Beijing Games who was also a member of Team SCA’s training crew for the Volvo Ocean Race.”

The 760 nautical-mile fortnight-long contest will begin in Muscat and conclude in Manama, Bahrain.

Rook said, “Lauren Eatwell took part in the SATT last year and Hannah Morris from New Zealand raced with us last year and is a very accomplished offshore racer. Five of our team members have done the race before and have an idea of what to expect, which is a great help. Two of the Omanis are brand new to sailing, so we will be able to talk them all through it.

“As we are lighter [compared to men’s teams], we will be able to sail with eight people. We haven’t been sailing together for very long as a team, but hopefully, we will come together as the race progresses. Two of our girls have never done an offshore race before, so it will be quite an experience for them,” said Rook.

Team Al Thuraya crew: Mary Rook (skipper), Lauren Eatwell, Hannah Morris, Annemieke Bes, Raiya al Habsi, Ibtisam al Salmi, Asma Adim, Marwa Hamood, Bushra Ramadhan.

SOURCE: Muscat Daily