Sport can be used as a powerful tool for the development of the Omani youth and one of the main objectives of the recently launched Oman Sail Youth programme is simply to use the sport of sailing to create good citizens.
This was one of the key messages conveyed to media at a round table briefing in Muscat to introduce the aims, objectives and early successes of the comprehensive new Youth Programme launched in February this year.
By introducing a new generation to sailing the Youth Programme supports Oman Sail's overall objective of promoting national pride by succeeding on the world's sporting stage, promoting elite Omani sailors as role models to inspire the youth of Oman and ultimately winning a medal for the Sultanate in the 2024 Olympic Games.
"We are targeting the youth to get involved with sport because of the positive values associated with sportsmanship. Achieving success in sport helps drive national pride and self worth. Our message to parents is let your children come sailing because it is good for them,"
Rashid Al Kindi, National Sailing Team Manager for Oman Sail.
Rashid said sailing is a fun and exciting way to reinforce strong family and social values while rekindling Oman's famed maritime heritage. Young sailors also get the opportunity to learn new transferable life skills and are given English language lessons.
Marina Psichogiou, Youth Development Manager for Oman Sail added, "Sailing promotes an active and healthy lifestyle whether these young sailors go on to become champion sailors or not. If we can use sport to create good citizens we will have succeeded in what we have set out to do."
She said involvement in sport could also help avoid anti-social behaviour and issues like obesity.
"Sailing encourages leadership, teamwork and communication skills. Confidence and willingness is needed to further goals, aims and ambitions. They need to build strength for endurance on the water. Above all sailing requires self discipline, integrity, honesty, sincerity, humility, courage and flexibility plus a strong work ethic and the ability to maintain a sense of humour under pressure. This is what our young sailors will learn and keep with them for life."
The Oman Sail Youth Programme is structured for all levels and interests with sail training offered through the competitive Oman Sail Racing Club and the more social Oman Sail Youth Club at sailing centres at Marina Bandar, Musaanah and the Wave Muscat.
Oman Sail Racing Club currently has 20 youngsters training three times a week at each sailing centre training and competing at local inter club regattas. So far 14 of them have had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania, Bahrain and Egypt to participate at international regattas.
The Youth Club has 60 sailors at each centre two times per week and here the accent is on fun and enjoyment.
At the broadest level the aim is to introduce an incredible 70,000 Omani youth to sailing by 2020.
Youngsters with talent and potential for sailing are identified according to their confidence in the water, ability to listen to and execute instructions and sheer enjoyment of the sport.
A strict selection process was used to select the right sailors for the international events this year with five sailors participating in the Optimist African Championships in Tanzania, five at the Kings Cup in Bahrain and four at the Alexandria International Laser Regatta in Egypt.
"Our sailors are still very young and inexperienced so their participation at these events was not results driven. It was more about the adventure of travel and a fun life experience to learn about new people, cultures and places while being introduced to top level racing."
Oman Sail aims to have established an elite National Youth Squad by February 2013 to compete at international level. The long term plan being for an Omani youth team to participate in the Youth Olympics in 2014, for a team to finish in the top fifty percent of the fleet at the 2015 Optimist World Championships, in the top fifty percent of the fleet at the 2018 Youth Olympics and in the top 20 percent of the fleet at the 2020 ISAF Youth World Championships
Oman Sail believes youth sailing will grow exponentially by 2016 with the Elite Squad swelling to 65 sailors, the Racing Club to 410 and the Youth Club to 630 at each sailing centre. Two more sailing centres open in Sohar and Sur in 2013 with Khasab and Salalah following by 2015.