Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing gets triple boost from New Zealand rugby superstars
Abu Dhabi, UAE – 10 March 2015: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) will be boosted by three of New Zealand’s most cherished sporting heroes when competitive action in the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) resumes at the end of the stopover in Auckland this weekend.
New Zealand rugby legend Jonah Lomu – scorer of the most tries in Rugby World Cup history — will step aboard ADOR’s racing yacht Azzam as celebrity guest for the New Zealand Herald In-Port Race on Saturday March 14. The following day — when ADOR sets out on Leg 5 to Brazil — rugby superstars Richie McCaw and Dan Carter will be onboard for the inshore section before jumping from Azzam’s stern as she heads into open ocean.
British double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker, skipper of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi)-backed team said having the world-class trio sail on Azzam was an exciting prospect and would give the crew the perfect boost as they take on what promises to be the toughest leg so far.
“There are few more well-recognised names in sport than Lomu, McCaw and Carter — they are household names here in New Zealand and also highly regarded by sporting fans around the world,” Walker said. “We can’t wait to meet them and give them a taste of what ocean racing is like.”
Lomu exploded on to the international rugby scene in the famous black jersey at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa when his power and pace made him the scourge of the world’s best defences and earned him a permanent place in the hearts of all Kiwi rugby fans. He represented his country 63 times, scoring 37 tries.
“When I received an invitation to join the guys competing in this ultimate round-the-world sailing race, I jumped at the chance,” said Lomu. “I know the team from Abu Dhabi is currently leading both the overall race and the In-Port Race series, so hopefully I will have the best vantage point possible to see another podium finish on Saturday!”
ADOR’s pair of celebrity jumpers for the Leg 5 departure from Auckland are lauded by rugby experts as two of the finest players in the history of the game. Captain and openside flanker McCaw is the most capped New Zealand player of all-time, and has won more Tests than any other player in the history of the game, while Carter is the world record-holder for most points in Test match rugby. McCaw has been voted World Player of the Year on three occasions (2006, 2009, 2010), while Carter has won the award twice (2005, 2012).
“It’s a real privilege to get onboard one of these state-of-the-art racing yachts, so I’m looking forward to seeing how a boat like Azzam operates under the leadership of their skipper Ian Walker and Kiwi Boat Captain Daryl Wislang,” said McCaw. “With the team leading the whole race they are obviously doing a great job so far. I hear we’ll be onboard at the start of the toughest Leg, so me and DC will be more than happy to jump off into the ocean when we get the nod!”
Carter, who many observers regard as the greatest fly-half ever, added: “I’m so stoked to sail with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. Being onboard whilst the crew are in race mode, will be such a cool experience.
“Both rugby and sailing are all about teamwork and precision, so I’m looking forward to seeing the action up close and personal for myself. Richie and I will be doing our best to help the guys get a head start as they set off on Leg 5. I’m sure the ceremonial ‘jump-off’ whilst racing is going to be equally exciting! I might need a better pair of waterproofs!”
Faisal Al Sheikh, Director, Events Bureau, TCA Abu Dhabi, was also excited at the latest additions onboard Azzam.
“We are thrilled that we will be hosting three undisputed legends of world rugby on our yacht Azzam as the Volvo Ocean Race action gets set to kick off once more,” he said. “Welcoming Jonah Lomu, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter into our Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing ‘family’ continues our tradition of hosting international sporting superstars, such as FIFA World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane, Portuguese superstar Luis Figo, London 2012 Olympic Gold medallist Alistair Brownlee, 2014 ITU World Series runner-up Jonny Brownlee, South-African triathlete Richard Murray, Springbok rugby legend Francois Pienaar, England cricketers Alastair Cook and Graeme Swann and Chinese golfer Lianwei Zhang.
“As much as the pursuit of excellence drives our team, our desire to take the time to forge new friendships and extend the warmth of a traditional Arabian welcome around the world with us is just as strong.”
The rugby heroes join the Azzam crew at a crucial juncture in the VOR; after four legs and more than 20,000 miles of offshore racing that has taken the fleet from Spain to New Zealand via South Africa and Abu Dhabi, ADOR is tied on points at the top of the leaderboard and in first place by way of its In-Port Race series results - a knife edge scenario that makes a good performance in Saturday’s in-port race and Sunday’s leg start of crucial importance.
Racing each day starts at 14:00 local time (01:00 UTC/05:00 UAE) and ADOR fans can follow the action live on volvooceanrace.com