F18 WORLDS – Oman’s F18 multi-hull team of Musab Al Hadi and Ahmed Al Balushi have pulled off the unthinkable by winning the opening race of the first ever world championship event they have ever competed in.
It is a life time achievement for the two young Omanis who have only been competing as a team for 18 months.
What’s more they were victorious in a huge fleet of 118 entries from 13 countries and five continents – among them Olympic medallists and world championship title holders who have long been their heroes and role models – on Tuesday’s opening day of the 2012 Global Tech F18 World Championships hosted by Alamitos Bay Yacht Club off Long Beach, California.
Racing in tricky slightly misty conditions with a light seven to nine knot breeze the Omanis took race honours ahead of the top French team of Olivier Backes, the Netherlands team of Coen de Koning, Swiss Billy Besson and Carolijn Brouwer who has been dominant at championships this year and is leading the event overall after three races.
The ultimate coup was finishing eight places ahead of one of their greatest role models, the 41 year old Australian defending champion Darren Bundock, a two-time Olympic multihull silver medallist and winner of 15 multihull world championship titles, three in F18’s.
Helmsman Musab Al Hadi, who comes from ‘Sidab’ on the coast of Muscat only started sailing four years ago with Oman Sail in the Laser class. He immediately started showing promising results and was selected to represent Oman in home waters at the 2nd Asian Beach Games in Muscat where he placed fourth overall – an incredible result for his first major international event.
Soon afterwards he joined the F18 catamaran team with 22 year old Ahmed Al Balushi as his crew. Al Balushi, who comes from the city of Sohar in the Al Batinah Governate only joined Oman Sail in June last year with the most recent group of recruits and was selected to crew with Al Hadi because of his ability to learn fast and his fitness.
Together Al Hadi and Al Balushi create a powerful and strong young Omani team and the pair have had a highly successful year so far finishing in the top ten in the last three major European championships they have competed in.
With the euphoria of their first World Championship race win spurring them on, the Omani team looked set to win Race 2 as well but equipment failure and a hand injury sadly put paid to their hopes of posting a triumphant double whammy in the waters off Long Beach, Calilfornia.
“They were leading again in Race 2. But just 200 meters from the windward mark Musab and Ahmed were coming from the right side of the course, five boat lengths in front of Carolijn Bouwer approaching from the left when Musab’s trapeze line failed.
“While falling and trying to grab what was remaining he injured his hand,” said Oman Sail national catamaran coach Paul Wakelin who was out on the course following the race.
“They sailed directly to me in my coach boat and jumped aboard. We officially retired with the committee boat and started to sail ashore. On the way in we were met by a club safety boat who took Musab to the shore to receive immediate first aid administered from the stationed coastguard at the club before being taken to hospital for further treatment.”
An excellent start to the competition despite the disappointing end to the day for the young Omani team and Al Hadi is determined to get back on the race course: “I’m going to try!”