It’s good to be king. Or, in the Sultanate of Oman on the Arabian peninsula, it’s good to be His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. But while a modern-day Sultan may be able to enjoy all the trappings of royalty, and horse racing or falconry may be “The Sports of Kings,” the Sultan of Oman has also worked hard to make sailing the sport that the country is increasingly being known for.
And when it comes to sailing, there is nothing more high-octane (or high profile) than the America’s Cup that has just landed in Muscat, Oman (travelling first-class in its own custom-made Louis Vuitton trunk) for the first event of the 2016 Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series.
“It is a great honor to host the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, such a prestigious and important event in international sailing,” said H.E Maitha Al Mahrouqi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism of Oman and Chairwoman of Oman Sail.
“We have developed sailing significantly in Oman through our national organization, Oman Sail, over the last few years and sailing has become one of the major sports in the Sultanate. To welcome the America’s Cup sailors to Oman and to be the first country to kick off the 2016 season is a great honor.”
Russell Coutts, the CEO of the America’s Cup Event Authority agreed.
“It is fantastic to bring the America’s Cup to this part of the world. The good thing about Oman is that the country has a very rich maritime heritage and connection with the ocean and you can feel that when you come here – the people are very passionate about it and very excited about the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series being here.”
But as any sailor will tell you, there’s a lot more to sailing than just the America’s Cup. And the Sultan of Oman knows this too. So much so that Oman Sail was founded in 2008 to rekindle Oman’s maritime heritage, promote the Sultanate of Oman around the world, and provide long-term learning opportunities for the youth of Oman.
Since then, Oman Sail’s Mohsin Al Busaidi became the first Arab to sail non-stop around the world. Muscat’s Extreme Sailing team won the first of two successive Extreme Sailing Series championships. Female sailors from Oman competed in Europe for the first time, and Raiya Al Habsi made history by becoming the first Arab woman to compete in the classic Fastnet race and also be the first Arab ever to be nominated for the Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award.
Oman Sail races a high-performance MOD 70 offshore trimaran called Musandam-Oman Sail in races all over the world as well. The boat broke the Round Britain and Ireland record by over 16 minutes in 2014, and it also broke a 20-year record by completing the Round Ireland speed challenge in a new record time.
And Oman is only the first stop on the 2016 Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series. Next stops include New York, Chicago, Portsmouth, England and Toulon, France.
America’s Cup sailors may be treated like “royalty” in Oman, but there sure to be treated like “rockstars” when they get to the States this summer.