• February 14, 2015

Omani college`s Sail Arabia student team relishing underdog status

A team of students from International Maritime College Oman in Sohar are readying themselves to take on the world’s sailing elite later this month. Nine of the college team will be comprised of by students from the college, many of whom will have had no prior racing experience, but that will count for nothing when the first leg of the race begins in Muscat on 15 February, said skipper and Department head, Mathijs Steven.

“For most members of the IMCO team it will be their very first race. They have been put through a rigorous training programme and have made great progress and are happy to be underdogs,” declared Mr. Steven.


“SATT 2015 will be a steep learning curve for the students. Some of them have already gone through a dip in confidence as the reality of what they are about to do, and who they are competing with starts to sink in. But, they have pushed through that and can’t wait to get started. The energy is fantastic,” he continued.

With 25 years’ experience in sailing Mathijs Steven said that he is aware he will be the figurehead of the team and that he will need to draw on all of his years’ at sea to guide his young team through the challenge of one of the world’s toughest sailing events. However, he remains confident in the abilities of his team.

“For me, it is important that each step from trim, tactics, and boat handling is identified. However, if there is one thing I have learned from racing it is that plans tend to fall apart during the race so I have to remain flexible and alert. The team have also shown great ability, grit, determination, and character,” he said.

Among the students taking part are four Omanis, aged between 21 and 24 years old. The youngest student on the team will be Indian first year student Jaya Krishnan, who is training to be deck officer. Meanwhile two of their team mates will be 25 year old marine engineering students, Azamat Nazkeyev and Nauryzbek Bekpembetov, both from Kazakhstan. Speaking ahead of the race, Azamat explained that the first time he tried sailing was in September 2014 following a presentation by Oman Sail, while for Nauryzbek, his first experience sailing came a month after his compatriot, during the college’s SATT team selection process.

“I am doing my best to fit training into my schedule so I can be prepared to represent the school and to give my best for the team. Normally I try to swim 3 times a week and walk more, but in the last few weeks it has been hard because of the final examinations. Still I am proud to have been selected,” said Nauryzbek.

“I don’t know how hard it will be as I have never been at sea for 15 days. The most I have been at sea is 14 hours,” explained Azamat. “But I can imagine the biggest challenge will be lack of sleep and seasickness. I am just focused on being fully rested and I hope I will be proud of my SATT performance,” he continued.

Like most of the team, which includes Omani, Kazakh, and Indian students, Azamat and Nauryzbek remain modest and describe themselves as having no particular skills, but according to their skipper, the one thing that set them apart was their ability to focus. More than 100 students tried out for the SATT team and were initially briefed by Mr. Mohsin al Busaidi, the first modern Arab to sail non-stop around the world in 2009.

Following which, the group was whittled down to 30, and then sixteen, before a final team of nine students were chosen. With the race just around the corner, training has taken place and students and staff alike are making their final preparations for the 15 challenging days they will encounter over the course of the race.

“The challenge is one of the main reasons we opened up SATT team selection to students. It will be a good test and preparation for the team’s maritime education. As the only education and training institute in the GCC to offer diploma, degree, and short courses for maritime, shipping, port transport, and petrochemical process industries, we are proud to be the first higher education institution in Oman to take part in Sail Arabia. We are excited for the race to begin,” said Acting Deputy Dean of Academic Affairs, Patrick Wells.

Sail Arabia – The Tour is an annual event and is contested by teams racing identical Farr 30 Yachts along a course stretching crewmembers to their limits, and testing teamwork and versatility. From The Wave in Muscat, teams will then travel to Sohar; and around the Musandam Peninsula to UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain.

The main campus of International Maritime College Oman, a joint venture with STC-Group of Rotterdam, is located next to SOHAR Port and Freezone, one of the world’s largest port and free zone development sites.