Saturday, February 26, 2011


Every once and awhile I head to Expat land: a place where the call to prayer is a little softer, shorts are acceptable and English is the dominant language. This little journey took me to The Wave-Muscat (, a Dubai Palms/The World wanna-be, and the only place where Expats (expatriates) are allowed to own property in Oman. (Psyche! The Omanis are building a new airport with the international runway just on the other side of the road of the far too expensive-$221,000- 1 bedroom apartments. This is either atrocious city planning or someone has a wonderfully expensive sense of humor and a distaste for sleeping Westerners.) The Wave happens to be right on the beach, and since much of it is built out onto the water, a natural marina and bay is formed. The winds coming down through the Gulf towards the Indian Ocean tend to pickup right here. This creates the perfect spot for a stadium of sorts to be erected to watch Extreme Sailing.
As I cabbed it towards The Wave along the beach highway I could make out the mainsails crisscrossing each other on the bay. It was glorious. These were 40 foot Catamarans built for racing. There were 11 teams, with the home crowd cheering for Oman Air and The Wave’s own racer. (This was all free and the last part of the Muscat Festival, which meant there were some Omani’s. The poster boy-literally his face was everywhere- Khamis, had taken up the sport three years ago after never having been on a boat. He won it all last year.)

I was cheering for a team called Artemis which was captained by the only American in the regatta. For the most part it was Aussies, Kiwis and Brits.
Races would last about ten minutes and required the boats to go through different gates spread throughout the bay. They would have to choose between going wide or sticking close to shore, and were given penalties (360 degree turn) for hitting each other. It was great to watch the helmsman work against their competitors and many times they would jump up along side one on the last dash to to the end, drop back, take all the wind out of the other’s sails, and then bolt forward. The notion that someone might crash a 40 foot boat, was also interesting and the close calls received much attention from the crowd. The final sprint was right along the bleachers which made for a thrilling end: It was downwind so the spinnakers (massive white sails out the front of the boat) unfurled which rocketed the boat forward while the skippers tried to get as much speed as they could. Occasionally they would fly a hull (raise one out of the water) which also increased their speed and most importantly brought them to the literal edge of disaster. It was magical to watch these vessels, powered solely by the wind, cutting across the bay.
The Extreme Sailing Series ( travels all over the world to do this for the rest of the year. In America they come to Boston. It was all hosted by Oman Sail, which is mostly run by Westerners but is Oman’s attempt to get Omani youth back into their very storied sailing roots.

Artemis won. AMERICA!

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