Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
2 - 8 December 1999
Issue No. 458
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

 
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Sailing anyone?

By Abeer Anwar


Rory Ramsden
Egypt is all set to host something new to its mainly landlubber population: a world sailing championship. The event, sponsored by Al-Ahram Organisation, is said to be the biggest of its kind, attracting 130 players thus far -- 90 men and 40 women -- from 30 countries. Those coming include Greek world champion Nicolas Kaklamanix, gold medalist in the 1996 Olympics.

At a press conference publicising the event, to be held from 14 to 22 January, Hassan Hamdi, head of the Al-Ahram Advertising Agency, made the formal announcement. "Continuing its great role in sponsoring international sports events while following the motto of sports tourism, Al-Ahram Organisation will sponsor the World Penta Mistral Cup 2000."

Emile El-Wazzan, deputy manager of the Egyptian Sailing and Water-ski Federation (ESWF), and head of the organising committee, acknowledged that Egypt might not be an old salt but was ready for the big step. "It is a great honour for Egypt, still new in the field, to host such a great event," El-Wazzan said. "It will open the way for us to bid for other international events since we have all the facilities to hold a successful event: the weather, the vast water-scapes like the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. He added that Safaga and Hurghada are included as sites in the International Sailing Federation (ISF). "They are some of the best places because wind velocity is perfect and very suitable for sailors," El-Wazzan told the press conference, attended by Minister of Tourism Mamdouh El-Beltagi and Said Zada, ESWF head.

Fees for the participation of each foreign player will be $150 while the federation will pay for three Egyptian players, the first three winners of this year's national championship, Mohamed and Sherif Hafez and Ibrahim Ismail. In total, the tournament will cost $210,000.

"[The championship] is an opportunity for countries like Sweden and Norway, who can train only in summer because in winter the water is completely frozen," said Sherif El-Asfouri, head of the Egyptian Sailing and Wind surfing Club and manager of the event.

Egypt was chosen by the ISF to host the event because of its weather and facilities, Rory Ramsden, head of the International Sailing Committee, said. "In 1997, we sent our treasurer to see the place and the facilities and he came back with an excellent report. So we awarded Egypt the bid in order to spread the game in the Arab world and the Middle East," said Ramsden, adding, "I am very sad that I did not visit such a splendid place before. The people are very nice and so is the weather."

The first Mistral championship kicked off in California in 1974. It entered the Olympics in 1984 and the international version began in 1987. There are currently one million men and women practising the sport. The largest number of players are found in France, Poland and New Zealand.

In Egypt, where the first club for sailing was founded by El-Asfouri in 1992, there are 5,000 competitors representing 18 clubs. The first national championship was held in 1994. With 20 sailing schools in the Red Sea and Sinai, Egypt is the first Arab country to seek membership in the international federation. Tunisia, Lebanon and Algeria have also applied.

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