The angry seamen – who in previous years had been received by the Egyptians with open arms – declared that they would write a letter to the president of Egypt.
The Med-Red Rally is considered the largest sailing event in the Middle East, and this year marks its fourth anniversary. The route begins in Turkey, passes by Israel and continues through southern Egypt towards the Red Sea. The yachts left Tel Aviv's port last Sunday on their way to the finish line at Sharm el-Sheik, but were stopped at Port Said.
According to the yachtsmen, Egyptian authorities refused to allow them to pass, citing various excuses. "Every day they gave us different excuses," said C ommodoreIzzy Swisa. "Once it was a large ship that was passing, another time it was heavy traffic....I believe it those were pretexts, and the only reason was that I was Israeli, which is too bad."
Yachts delayed at Port Said. (Photo: Ahiya Raved)
Swisa was the only Israeli participating in the segment of the sailing event passing through Suez. The other yachts came from various countries worldwide. "The goal of the event is to encourage naval tourism between Israel and its neighbors," Swisa explained. "But unfortunately this year the Egyptians decided to dampen our spirits."
On Tuesday the Egyptians finally granted the sailors permission to sail, but unfortunately only back to Israel. "When we get back I plan to write a harsh letter to President Mubarak and the Egyptian tourism minister," Swisa said. "I can't think of a reason for their behavior, except for my being Israeli. I demand an apology."
He added that the rally would consider changing its course in the following years.
The Egyptian Embassy told Ynet that it was no party to the affair, but that it had investigated the issue and discovered that there had been problems with the arrangements made for some of the yachts requesting permission to pass through the canal. It cited the fact that certain yachts had been granted permits without delay.
Ali Waked also contributed to this article.