Some legacies are made for eternity. The awards and recognitions Shabab Oman II, the Royal Navy of Oman’s sail training vessel, won at various global maritime events including the recent sailboat festival in the Netherlands is ample proof that Sindbad’s thalassic legacy is still as motivating as ever in the land renowned for its mystical charm and lovingly hailed as the Jewel of the Arabian Peninsula.
What else could have driven the spirits of the valiant crew members of the iconic tall ship who steered their vessel to international glory sailing past Belem, its competitor from France?
As Shabab Oman II continues its 4th international voyage the Masts of Peace and Glory across the European continent, singing the glories of the Sultanate and winning accolades, it could be the youth of Oman who are most excited, inspired and proud. In fact, Shabab Oman means ‘The youth of Oman.’
The ongoing Tall Ships Race series — that started off from Aalborg, Denmark on July 3 and set to conclude in Aarhus, Denmark, on August 4 — may throw up some amazing opportunities for Shabab Oman II to showcase the sailing talent of the Sultanate.
Meanwhile the unique exhibition onboard Shabab Oman II at the Aalborg Maritime Festival, which highlights the Sultanate’s rich tourism attractions, culture and heritage, has been a huge crowd puller. The exhibition is yet another initiative of the Sultanate’s Ministry of Tourism towards promoting Oman’s tourism potential among Europeans.
That Shabab Oman II is the venue of the tourism exhibition is significant. For, Shabab Oman II is no ordinary vessel. Built under the ambitious Project Orchard as a replacement for the Royal Navy of Oman’s ageing sail training ship by the same name, Shabab Oman II is a three-masted squared rigged clipper with a ‘V’ shaped hull. The ship has 29 sails measuring 2,630 sq m, giving it an amazing sailing speed of up to 17 knots.
The ship was designed by the Amsterdam-based Dykstra Naval Architects, and built by Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding, a Dutch shipbuilder. The steel hull of the vessel was built at the Damen shipyard on the Black Sea coast in Romania. Interestingly, a team of officers from the Royal Navy of Oman had been stationed in Romania to oversee every stage of the ship building.
After launching the hull in November 2013, it was towed through the Black Sea, the Bosporus, the Mediterranean and the Bay of Biscay before it reached Vlissingen in Holland in January the following year. The rest of the ship building process was completed here, which included the installation of the complex rigging and sophisticated navigation and communication systems. From there, Shabab Oman II sailed through the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Oman Sea to arrive at Muscat. The vessel was officially launched in 2014.
The story of its predecessor, which is also the first sail training vessel of the Royal Navy of Oman, is equally captivating. It goes back to 1971, the year when the ship was built in Scotland. After six years, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bought the ship in 1977, and a couple of years later it became part of the Royal Navy of Oman as its first sail training ship. Its mission had been to train young Omani naval cadets and officers, and also to function as the Sultanate’s goodwill ambassador with the stated objective of showcasing Oman’s rich maritime tradition and legacy that span centuries.
Even a beautiful book has been written on Oman’s first naval sail vessel. The Voyages of Shabab Oman with Captain Chris and her crew, authored by one of its crew Nigel Bernie Bruen, narrates in a captivating tone the global voyages of the ship starting from 1987 and ending in 2009. It’s a touching account of how the majestic vessel and its crew conquered the imagination of people across nationalities.
Notably, the book tells the endearing tale of its feted captain Chris Biggins, who steered the ship for an unbelievable 22 years, earning him the honour of being the world’s longest serving captain of a tall ship. Capt Chris left the world in 2011 prematurely at the young age of 58, and his notes and journals formed the basis of the book’s content.
As for Shabab Oman II, which is on its fourth international voyage and is commanded by Captain Ali bin Mohammed al Hosani, the story has just begun, and decades of thrilling voyages, goodwill gestures, awards, events and pleasant encounters await the vessel that has become the pride of the Sultanate.