Sheikh Mohammed bin Daij Al Khalifa the sailor sheikh on the challenges of Sailing Arabia the Tour
Time Out Bahrain staff
As we’re going to press, nine teams of intrepid sailors are battling it out in Sailing Arabia the Tour (SATT), seven destinations, six flags in a grueling 1,408km offshore race which launched from Manama.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Daij Al Khalifa is a board member of Bahrain Maritime Sports Association (BMSA) and, with veteran sailor Qassim Adbul Razzaq, is responsible for leading the 12-strong national team as they compete agains others from across the GCC and Europe..
We caught up with him at the end of the second leg to find out how things were going.
How long have you been sailing and where did you learn? I grew up around sailors and that was due to my uncles who were keen on growing the sport in Bahrain especially Shaikh Khalifa bin Abdullah the president of the BMSA.
I used to sit on the bow of the Laser boat and watch what they were doing, these experiences were increased by the variety of boats that where available at that time (Hobie Cats, Laser 2s, windsurfing…) and in the early 90s I started sailing Optims, shortly after that I sailed the Laser.
Have you prepared for Sail Arabia the Tour? No, due to my commitment to work, I never thought that I would be able to sail in SATT. But I do occasionally sail for fun and spar against our match-racing team.
What have been the greatest challenges in training/preparation? A challenge we had during the first leg in SATT was not checking the hatch before putting up our spinnakers. That was due to the lack of time available for all our team members to be around for boat inspections and familiarisation.
How did you feel setting off as joint skipper on the first leg of the tour? It was great to have been part of this event and to have sailed with some of the world’s best sailors and, most importantly, I was really proud to have sailed for my kingdom with the dutifully branded Bahrain boat.
You mentioned before that off-shore racing is not something the Bahrain team is particularly familiar with, how have you and the crew coped and what have been the greatest challenges? It was a challenge to get a fully committed team for the full period to do this event. We had to cancel other events to get three of our sailors to be part of the SATT team and gathered the remaining changing crew in every different leg.
(Organiser) Oman Sail has done a great job by making everything available for us to be able to navigate to our destination, however we could have trained in deciding navigation routes to be able to enhance our results.
What message do you want Bahrain’s participation in the event to send to young Bahrainis, do you hope it will encourage more of them to explore their maritime heritage? The BMSA has always encouraged youngsters to undertake this great sport, it is for all and it is not difficult to learn. Therefore we have created an event for beginners and first timers to learn how to sail and race all within three weekends.
I would also like to add that this sport builds courage, confidence and problem solving in those who partake part in it, in addition to the opportunity to develop team-building skills.
Are there options for Bahraini would-be sailors to get involved with the tour for next year? We would love to take part in the tour in the coming years, however we would like to grow the number of sailors we have to be able to have a dedicated team in the future.
Will the Bahrain team be taking part in other events around the region? We are always keen in taking parts in events in the region and internationally. Yes we will take part in more events in the region.