Record-Breaking Team Completes Final Training Journey To Volvo Ocean Race Start    

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has completed a gruelling 600 mile nautical journey from its training base in Cascais, Portugal to the Volvo Ocean Race 2011/12 home port in Alicante, Spain, as the record-breaking team begins final preparations for the race start on October 29th.  

Battling heavy 40 knot winds to arrive in the Spanish port city by October 1st for scheduled rigging and keel work, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and its state-of-the-art Volvo Open 70 racing yacht, Azzam (determination), negotiated the Straights of Gibraltar in a testing three day trip.  

The journey also provided a crucial final training session and data collection opportunity on a route which it will navigate under race conditions in five weeks time on the way to Cape Town.  

“Nobody likes bashing upwind in these yachts but it is good to test everything one last time before the start. It is important to stress Azzam in these training sessions whilst we still have time to make refinements and it’s been so far so good. We had up to 40 knots of wind and a short, steep seaway at the Straits but we never had to back off. We have definitely improved our sail changes and refined our upwind data,” said Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper, Ian Walker.  

“We will be back out on these waters in the opposite direction for the first leg of the race, so it has been a critical journey for us, and our navigator Jules Salter has been taking notes every step of the way. Every bit of training we do can make the difference come race time; this is a race about seconds, and every one counts.”  

For the team’s Emirati sailor, Butti Al Muhairi, who was making the final journey with the team as part of his ongoing training schedule alongside fellow countryman, Adil Khalid, it was his first sighting of the iconic Rock of Gibraltar.  

“It was amazing! We sailed right up close to the rock and then tacked out from under its shadows; it reminded me of sailing through the Straits of Hormuz near home in Abu Dhabi.”  

After more than a year of training, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA)-backed outfit and its record-breaking crew, the most intercontinental ever assembled for this ‘Everest of Sailing’, will now have two-weeks on-shore as Azzam undergoes final optimisation and measuring.  

According to Walker, a double Olympic medallist and Volvo Ocean Race veteran, preparation is well on-track but stressed that work done between now and the start can still make the difference between success and failure.  

“This will be a busy few weeks for our shore team. For the sailors it is crucial to make final preparations in each of our areas but also to try and take a few days off to recharge the batteries before a long and tough nine months ahead. Everyone is excited to be getting to the start, to see our oppositions’ boats for the first time and to see old friends. The race is nearly upon us.”  

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, which recently broke the monohull Rolex Fastnet Race record in its debut outing in the UK, has made history as the first Arabian challenger in the 39,000 nautical mile, round-the-world sailing race, which takes in 10 cities, over nine legs and across four oceans.  

Abu Dhabi is also set to write itself in the annals of sailing lore when it becomes the first Middle Eastern destination to welcome the Volvo Ocean Race to its shores this New Year, for a fortnight-long hosting which will be a ‘race highlight’.   A specially-designed 55,000m² ‘Destination Village’ – the size of eight football pitches – has been built on the Abu Dhabi Corniche breakwater to host the Volvo Ocean Race yachting fleet and its many thousands of fans expected to descend on the UAE capital when the city welcomes the flotilla this New Year.  

This Destination Village will be the focal point for the UAE capital as the third leg stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race arrives. It will open free of charge to the public throughout the stopover, which runs 31st December 2011 – 14th January 2012   ADTA has committed to a fully-packed entertainment programme for the stopover, including exhibitions, shows, simulators, hospitality, game zones, restaurants and cafes, sailing academies, shops and concerts.  

In addition, as part of the huge two-week activation plan, the race’s ‘Life at the Extreme’ activity centre is also onboard.   Top attractions include The Ride, a state-of-the-art simulator that gives the feeling of being onboard a Volvo Open 70 yacht at speed in extreme conditions whilst being bombarded by strong winds and spray; The Dome, a 40 person interactive 3D cinema; The Grinding Challenge, where you can pit your strength against your friends on the pedestal grinders which the crews use onboard Volvo Open 70s; and Air Balls, which gives kids the chance to ‘run’ on water.   

The Volvo Ocean Race 2011/12 begins in Alicante, Spain, in October 2011 and ends in Galway, Ireland in summer next year. It is a race in which professional athletes, on-board the Volvo Open 70 racing yacht, sail around the world with the prevailing winds.