Oman welcomed the world's sailing community to the Sultanate on Saturday with a lavish opening ceremony to mark the start of the 2013 Laser Men's World Sailing Championships, its first ever sailing world championships, at Mussanah Sports City.
The ceremony was attended by His Excellency Sayyid Bader bin Hamad Al Busaidi, Secretary General of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, plus other dignitaries and VIPs and around 130 competitors who have flown on from around the world, representing 51 nations.
They were ushered in by young Oman Sail Youth Programme sailors bearing large national flags and by a band of Omani drummers before His Excellency Rashad Al Hinai, Undersecretary of Ministry of Sports Affairs officially welcomed the 300 guests to the venue, which was designed and built specifically to host world class Olympic standard sailing events.
"With the cooperation of Oman Sail, the Ministry of Sports Affairs has exerted great efforts to obtain approval for the hosting the 2013 Laser Men's World Sailing Championships and also the ISAF youth championships in 2016,"
His Excellency said, "All this falls in the framework of the Sultanate's belief that these international competitions will play an important role in contributing to human development in Oman, promoting the country as a high- end tourist and investment destination, attracting sports enthusiasts to the country, and enhancing the Sultanate's position as a country that has the state of the art facilities that can support international sailing events."
Hugh Leicester, Vice President of the International Laser Class Association added, "The Laser class is very happy to be here in Oman for the 2013 Laser World Championships.
"We are honoured to be the first sailing World Championship to be celebrated in Oman and look forward to a great week of challenging sailing supplied by the 130 sailors from 51 Countries and all six continents.
"In a short time Oman Sail has become a worldwide brand. Its achievement in developing sailing in Oman has been incredible."
Throughout the hour long ceremony, the accent was firmly on youth with members of the Oman Sail Youth Programme carrying the three trophies that will be awarded to the winners of the Laser Standard World Championships, the Laser World Masters and the Laser Radial Youth World regattas between now and January.
The importance of the youth programme was given top billing since inspiring and developing Omani youth has become a key part of Oman Sail's plan to create a sailing legacy in Oman. Young sailors made special gifts to the guests of honour amid a vibrant spectacle of flashing lights and exuberant music.
"Seeing Oman play such a big part in the launch of these World Championships made me feel very proud,"
said Omani sailor Ahmed Al Hasani, who will be on the start line on Sunday when the first race of the Championships gets underway.
"There are many of us who have been inspired by the development of sailing in the Sultanate and have been lucky enough to be involved so this is an opportunity for the rest of the world to see what is happening and even perhaps what lies ahead."
Already the Mussanah Sports City venue has been highly praised by competitors, many of whom have been on site for a fortnight in preparation for the World Championships.
"This is a very good technical race area,"
said eight time Laser World Champion Robert Scheidt who after a nine year break has returned to racing in the Laser class in preparation for the Olympic Games in his home city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
"There are mostly light to medium winds and the shifts phase in every five minutes from left and right so there is no favoured side to the course and you have to start always in a positive frame of mind. It is crucial to get off the line in clear air. Even if you are the best sailor in the world, you have to get clear air at the start and give yourself options or you will soon be in trouble."
Racing in the Laser Standard World Championships begins at 1300hrs GST (Gulf Standard Time) on Sunday November 17 with two race starts of 60 boats each. Two back to back races are scheduled each day until the final on Saturday November 23.
To follow racing, go to www.omanlaserworlds2013.com
for live blogging from the race course. Results will be posted immediately after racing has concluded for the day.