Adil Khalid Readies To Complete Volvo Ocean Race Odyssey As Olympic Games Beckon


As the gruelling, round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race nears its nail-biting finish, its first Arab contender, Emirati star, Adil Khalid, a member of the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew which sailed the ‘Azzam’ yacht, has revealed he is relishing a return to Galway, Ireland –the final race port and his 2008 Olympic Games training ground.

Four years ago, Khalid spent scores of hours plotting solo courses through Galway’s notorious sailing waters in the build-up to the Beijing Games. Now, as the event’s six-strong fleet prepares for next month’s Emerald Isle climax, he is hoping his Abu Dhabi team and Azzam (determination), round out the race in style by challenging for leg podium honours and overall In-Port Race standings trophy.

“Contesting this race and being a part of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has helped me grow and mature – I really feel like an old soul now. We are so close to the finish line and I keep imagining sailing into Galway again. It will be a welcome return after the good time I had training there for Beijing,” said Khalid, who is hoping to receive a wildcard berth to compete in London 2012.

“The Irish are always so warm, hospitable and welcoming; in many ways it reminds me of Abu Dhabi. I have very fond memories of Galway, so to finish the race there is a fitting end to what has been a truly life changing experience. I will certainly be returning to Ireland as a different man - one that is wiser and more mature.”

Despite standing on the brink of sailing history as the first Gulf national to complete the ‘Everest of Sailing’, Khalid already has one eye on his next challenge – hopefully competing in the Laser class at the 2012 Olympics in London, which start on July 27.

“As I start to look back over the whole Volvo Ocean Race experience, I can’t help but look forward to where I go from here. I’m working hard, the momentum is with me and I want to leverage what I’ve learnt and realise my Olympic ambitions,” added Khalid. “It is true when people say the Olympics are the pinnacle. It doesn’t matter where you are from, or what your sport is – the Olympics are the ultimate dream for anyone participating in sport.”

Already the first Arab sailor to win a Volvo Ocean Race leg following Azzam’s historic victory in the Trans-Atlantic stage from Florida to Portugal, Khalid maintains his Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi)-backed team is ready for the event’s final, 485-nautical mile sprint to Galway.

Comparatively short when measured against preceding legs, the climactic voyage is nonetheless fraught with obstacles to negotiate, including commercial shipping lanes, rocky outcrops, major tidal gates and a seemingly endless series of headlands. If that wasn’t enough, rapidly changing weather conditions will ensure Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s collective eyes remain trained on overhead skies.

“This is going to be a tough leg and we know getting away from the fleet in the early stages will be key to our podium chances. It’s going to be a short burst of energy and concentration, but we are fired up,” said Khalid, who recently celebrated his son’s first birthday in the UAE.

Having been welcomed to Abu Dhabi by Adil during the emirate’s stopover in January, the Lady Mayoress of Galway, Hildegarde Naughton, is keen to repay the favour.

“Galway will give Abu Dhabi and Adil the warmth of welcome that the Irish received in the UAE capital’s stopover – hospitality is something both our cultures have in common,” said the Mayoress. “It was great to meet Adil, hear of his ambitions, of his memories of training in Ireland which he still treasures. We look forward to welcoming him back to Irish shores.”

TCA Abu Dhabi is pulling out all the stops in Galway to celebrate the emirate’s debut showing in the 39,000 nautical mile race. A wealth of on-ground activities will take place in the Galway Race Village throughout the stopover, which ends on 7th July with the In-Port Race – the final points scoring competition of the global sailing challenge.

Taking the UAE capital’s famed Arabian hospitality to the western Irish city, TCA Abu Dhabi’s activities will hinge on a specially-developed pavilion at the race village.

Traditional Emirati Al-Ayala dancers, chanting national songs of the United Arab Emirates, of which Abu Dhabi is the capital, will play daily for crowds. Drawing on centuries of history, the Al Ayala represents Abu Dhabi’s deep-rooted horsemanship past and the notion of bravery in battle - all set to the beat of drums.  

Calligraphy artists will be on hand to turn names into works of art, whilst henna specialists will paint intricate designs on visitors. Fans of the traditional Arabian falcon, which is the team emblem for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, will also be able to get up-close to the majestic birds.

TCA Abu Dhabi will also hand lucky competition winners luxury holidays to the UAE capital. The VIP breaks will see the winners fly to the emirate with Etihad Airways, the award-winning airline of the United Arab Emirates which now flies ten times a week from Dublin, and stay in a luxury five-star hotel.