Race yachts to carry message of peace to Europe.

Violent upheavals in Lebanon have prevented a women’s sailing race from Beirut to Tunisia from taking place, but the race committee and sailors have determined to use the boats to as a means to campaign against conflict. On August 13, 50 Meditteranean sailors will set off from Sidi bou Said, Tunisia, sailing in groups to five European ports – Valencia, Marseilles, Monaco, Naples and Athens – to spread their message of peace to local politicians.

The Route d’Elissa was launched last year to back Arab women’s rights and increase tourism in Lebanon and Tunisia. The race course follows in the legendary wake of Queen Dido, or Elissa, originally princess of Tyre, who escaped oppression by sailing to Libya, where she founded her own city of peace, Carthage (now Sidi bou Said).

Tyre is now the main port in southern Lebanon, and has been targeted in an Israeli military campaign following the guerilla abduction of two Israeli soldiers in July. The conflict has left 400 dead, shattered the country’s infrastructure and caused foreign residents to flee on such a scale that comparisons have been made with Dunkirk.