Paralympian Is The One For Azzam

24 Jul 2014

Abu Dhabi, 24 July 2014:

A double leg amputee has been drafted into Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) – Abu Dhabi’s Volvo Ocean Race competing team – to help take on the historic Artemis Challenge sailing race at Cowes Week in the UK this August 7.

Keith Burhans, a 58-year-old paralympian from the USA, had both his legs amputated in 1995 after he was run over by a boat, but the determined sailor received prosthetic limbs just two months after the tragic accident, got back on the water, and even went on to represent the USA at the Sydney 2000 Games. And now, thanks to an ADOR Facebook competition, the native New Yorker has been named the ‘One4Azzam’, winning a place on the deck of ADOR’s sleek ‘Azzam’ 65 yacht for the key August test – the first competitive outing for the new Volvo Ocean 65 Azzam and her revamped ADOR crew.

“I am extremely excited to have been chosen as the ‘One4Azzam’, and I’m eager to have the opportunity to demonstrate what a paralympian sailor can do with a pro-team,” said Burhans, who beat more than 400 other entrants to the honour. “I’ll be doing this for all my paralympian brothers out there.

“I’m excited for the invitation, especially as a disabled person. There are almost no opportunities for a disabled person to join a team like this so this opportunity may be a chip in that glass ceiling.”

Burhans, who managed to save the lives of his two daughters, Kristen and Allison, in the same accident that cost him his legs, also coached the Greeks in the Athens 2004 Games and is currently Past Commodore of Rochester Yacht Club in New York. Now he will take his very special set of sea legs aboard Azzam alongside skipper Ian Walker and the rest of the ADOR crew for a day as they take on the Artemis Challenge – one of the highlights of the world-famous Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes regatta and a crucial part of the team’s development and training for the Volvo Ocean Race, which starts in October. 

“I went to Newport last week and met Ian Walker and some others from the Azzam team on the dock. Getting the chance to sail with them is a dream come true - a real bucket-list kind of opportunity. I’m definitely looking forward to playing with the pros on Azzam,” enthused Burhans.

“I’ve followed Ian’s successes over the years while it was fabulous to meet young Adil Khalid, the Emirati sailor who looks like he’s got a huge future ahead of him.”

Keith, who heads a specialty advertising company, won the competition by registering 1,925 votes on ADOR’s Facebook site when he presented his case of why he should be the ‘One4Azzam’– 161 votes ahead of his nearest rival.

“It was amazing to see such interest from sailing enthusiasts around the globe and we are truly honoured that they decided to share their stories with us. There were many worthy candidates and in Keith we have a winner whose determination reflects the entire Azzam spirit,” said Faisal Al Sheikh, Director, Events Bureau, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), which is behind ADOR’s Volvo Ocean Race campaign.

Ian Walker says the whole ADOR team is in awe of Keith’s courage and fortitude and is gearing up to give him the warmest of Arabian welcomes in Cowes.

“Azzam is the Arabic for determination so Keith is coming home when he boards this yacht,” he said. “He’s going to be very much part of a team determined to win and a victory in Cowes would surely round off the ADOR experience for such a worthy winner.”

Keith and his wife Susanne are now packing for their 3,329 mile journey from New York to the Isle of Wight for the Cowes date.

“I rate the ADOR team chances very highly in Artemis and also in the Volvo Ocean Race, which I follow avidly – I watched it all the way through last time,” said Keith. ‘Now with one design yachts in the Volvo Ocean Race there’s good competition out there, it’s all down to the crew and Ian Walker has a great experience.”

Follow news of the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team and hear the latest on the Abu Dhabi stopover for the 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race by following on Facebook -, on Twitter and Instagram - @ADORlog, online at, and on YouTube -

If you would like to interview Keith Burhans about ADOR and joining the Azzam team for a day, please contact him directly on +1 585 734 5123 or email [email protected]

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Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority conserves and promotes the heritage and culture of Abu Dhabi emirate and leverages them in the development of a world-class, sustainable destination of distinction which enriches the lives of visitors and residents alike. The authority manages the emirate’s tourism sector and markets the destination internationally through a wide range of activities aimed at attracting visitors and investment. Its policies, plans and programmes relate to the preservation of heritage and culture, including protecting archaeological and historical sites and to developing museums, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. The authority supports intellectual and artistic activities and cultural events to nurture a rich cultural environment and honour the emirate’s heritage. A key authority role is to create synergy in the destination’s development through close co-ordination with its wide-ranging stakeholder base.


Abu Dhabi was named ‘World’s Leading Sports Destination’ in the 2013 World Travel Awards.


For more information on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing please contact:

Justin Chisholm – Communications Officer, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

d. +44 7769 938 722

e. [email protected]

For more information on Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority please contact:

Shams El Din Pringle – TCA Abu Dhabi

d. +971 2 4181399  

e. [email protected]  


For media information on the Volvo Ocean Race, please contact:

Jon Bramley - Director, News and Media

Volvo Ocean Race HQ (Spain)

Tel +34 966 011 150

[email protected]


Christina Gaither - Media Relations Manager

Tel +34 676 675 931

[email protected]


Editors’ Notes

  • The next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race will be the 12th running of the 40-year-old event, which started in 1973 as the Whitbread Round the World Race.

  • The race will start on October 4, 2014, day of the first In-Port Race in Alicante, Spain, and finish with one last In-Port Race on June 27, 2015 in Gothenburg, the Swedish home of Volvo.

  • The 38,739-nautical mile route will also include stopovers in Cape Town (South Africa), Abu Dhabi (UAE), Sanya (China), Auckland (New Zealand), Itajaí (Brazil), Newport, Rhode Island (USA), Lisbon (Portugal) and Lorient (France). A 24-hour pit-stop in The Hague is scheduled between France and Sweden.

  • The next two editions will be contested in a new high-performance boat, the Volvo Ocean 65, designed by Farr Yacht Design in the United States and built by a consortium of boatyards in the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Switzerland.

  • The new 65-foot (19.8-metre) monohull racing yachts will be strictly One Design and delivered “ready to sail” for the next two editions of the Volvo Ocean Race. The boats incorporate the latest video, satellite and content production facilities to further enhance the Onboard Reporter programme that has been in place since 2008-09.

  • Six teams have been announced so far. The all-female Team SCA is the first all-women's team to compete in the race since 2001-02. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is once again skippered Britain's twice Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker. Dongfeng Race Team come from China and is backed by Dongfeng Commercial Vehicle. Team Brunel from the Netherlands is skippered by race veteran Bouwe Bekking. Team Alvimedica, the youth challenge will be led by All American Ocean Racing and carry a double Turkey/USA flag. A Spanish entry has been confirmed and the name of the team will be announced shortly.

  • The previous Volvo Ocean Race started in October 2011 in Alicante and was won by Groupama sailing team, skippered by Frenchman Franck Cammas, in July 2012.


10 things to know about Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

  1. Our sailors have raced an incredible 20 Volvo Ocean Races between them. That’s 110,000 hours, or 4,605 days, or 657 weeks, or 164 months or 13 years and 7 months in total at sea!

  2. Two of our sailors have won the Volvo Ocean Race previously - Justin Slattery in 2005-06 with ABN AMRO and Phil Harmer in 2011-12 with GROUPAMA.

  3. Ian Walker has been a skipper in the ‘Big 3’ of the sailing world - winning 2 Olympic medals, skippering an America’s Cup team and now taking part as skipper in his 3rd Volvo Ocean Race.

  4. Six of our crew are married (Ian Walker, Simon Fisher, Justin Slattery, Adil Khalid, Chuny Bermudez, Phil Harmer); one is in relationship (Andrew McLean) and one is single (Luke Parkinson)

  5. The ADOR crew has 12 children between them - seven girls and five boys. Ian Walker and Justin Slattery both have daughters, Phil Harmer has two sons, Adil Khalid has a son and a daughter, Chuny Bermudez has a son and two daughters, Simon Fisher has a son

  6. In previous races sailors have lost as much as 10 kilos in weight on a single race leg! To prevent that happening this time, our Sports Science Manager Pete Cunningham has the team on a special high calorie diet and individual gym programs.

  7. The team’s most popular pastime when its not sailing is cycling, with Parko being the undisputed ‘King of the Mountains’. Parko aims to cycle about 150km a week. It will have to be in the gym from now on though as Skipper Ian Walker, with a view to preventing injury, has banned all team members from road cycling.

  8. Our Spanish crewman Roberto Bermudez De Castro is universally known simply as ‘Chuny’, a family nickname he’s had since he was a very small boy.

  9. Sailing round the world might sound glamorous but taking part in the Volvo Ocean Race is among the toughest of sporting challenges. Along the 39,000 mile course the sailors will face storm force winds and mountainous waves, frustrating flat calms around the equator and have to deal with the extremes of high and low temperatures

  10. Our Volvo Ocean 65 is named ‘Azzam’, the Arabic word for determination and a character trait shared by all our team members.

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