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VOLVO OCEAN RACE
ABU DHABI
Imagine the most exciting yacht race you can, picture the world’s most demanding team sports
event, visualise the exhilaration of professional crews sailing the most treacherous waters and you
have some idea of why the Volvo Ocean Race caused such positive furore in Abu Dhabi. Building
on the spirit of the great seafarers who fearlessly sailed more than a century ago, the Volvo Ocean
Race is an endeavour which calls for incomparable strength and sailing prowess. Ten countries, four
oceans, one race – it’s hardly surprising that Abu Dhabi was excited and is still reeling about being
part of such a magnificent sporting experience and it just had to be something we commemorated
in the A&J diaries. During a nine month adrenalin fuelled adventure out as sea, the Volvo Ocean
Race sees the competing teams sail over 39,000 nautical miles of hazardous seas in a thrilling race.
The action started in October 2011 in Alicante and will continue until July 2012 when it will no
doubt come to a memorable conclusion in Galway Ireland.
During that time, the astounding action will have sailed
via Cape Town, Abu Dhabi, Sanya, and Auckland, around
Cape Horn to Itajaí, Miami, Lisbon, and Lorient. Each
entry has a professional crew of 11 who demonstrate their
competitive edge, sheer seafaring skills and magnificent
physical endurance. Some legs even require the crews
to race continuously for more than 20 days at a time
undertaking an extreme challenge few will experience
in their lifetime. Living on freeze dried food, with only
one change of clothes and at the mercy of temperature
variations from -5 to +40 degrees Celsius, this is not
an undertaking for the faint-hearted. To survive the
challenges of sleep deprivation and extreme hunger, it
is vital to operate as an efficient team with each crew
member taking on their own roles on board. Two will
have undertaken crucial medical training, and there’ll
be a sail maker, an engineer and a dedicated media crew
member.
At the Heart of the Adrenalin-Fuelled Action
The first 31,250 nautical-mile race took place over 37
years ago (as the Whitbread Round the World Race
1973-74), challenging the crews with some of the fiercest
conditions known to man. This is the first time the
Middle East has been part of the prestigious race route
so you can imagine our excitement at the opportunity
to experience the heart of the action during our A&J
diary travels. The 11th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race
proved to be, like all the races before it, an adventure
of a lifetime for those involved. We were there as Abu
Dhabi proudly welcomed the succession of splendid
racing yachts, their sea hardened sailors and over 100,000
expectant spectators and we were proud to cheer on the
national team as they caused a huge stir with a remarkable
victory on January 13. Regarded by many as the zenith
of sailing achievement, the race holds a prestigious status
as the world’s leading global race combining a unique mix
of sporting competition and adrenalin-fuelled adventure.
Abu Dhabi’s appealing climate, azure crystal waters and
expansive coastline make it a destination abuzz with
on-the-water action throughout the year and now it
has successfully played host as one of ports in the Volvo
Ocean Race. It is thrilling that Abu Dhabi has become
the first Middle Eastern port in the event’s 37 year history
and they certainly pushed the boat out to make it a
stopover to remember. We have some unique memories
of an incredible two weeks. As Abu Dhabi played host to
the ultimate mix of onshore glamour and offshore drama,
we were highly fortunate enough to be at the heart of the
action where we witnessed the stamina and endurance
of the crew first hand and soak up the exhilarating
atmosphere at the Volvo Ocean Race village. We were
amongst the lucky visitors able to get really up close and
personal to the fleet of Volvo Open 70 racing yachts as
they arrived in Abu Dhabi at the end of the race’s 5,430
nautical mile Leg 2 from Cape Town, South Africa.
The Abu Dhabi Stopover
The Destination Village became home to a number of
high profile stars and exciting events whilst the yachting
action unfolded. Having secured its place in the history
books as the first Middle East port in the race’s 37-year
history, Abu Dhabi really pulled out all the stops to ensure
its fortnight stop-over was a notable and truly memorable
home port experience. Not only did the legendary rock
band Coldplay get 2012 off to an unforgettable start with
a sensational sell out New Year’s Eve concert to mark the
opening of the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Abu Dhabi,
but the Village on the city’s Corniche breakwater also
hosted many other thrilling activities and shows to keep
visitors enthralled and entertained throughout the two
week stopover.
In a spirit of adventures where the rich tapestry of Abu
Dhabi’s cultural history collided beautifully with the
modern thrills of a sensational sporting event, for the
lucky holiday makers, this was a trip like no other. At the
heart of the race’s two week stopover in Abu Dhabi lay
the specially-designed 55,000m2 ‘Destination Village’,
officially opened on New Year’s Eve by His Excellency
Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General of Abu Dhabi
Tourism Authority, His Excellency Ahmed Thani Al
Rumaithi, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Sailing & Yacht
Club and Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race.
Overlooking Abu Dhabi’s breathtaking city skyline, the
interactive village incorporated exciting game zones,
various enticing food and beverage outlets and tempting
merchandise shops. Within the village a remarkable
programme of entertainment was laid on for visitors.
In just two incredible week’s Abu Dhabi’s port hosted
a welcoming ceremony, in-port racing, city receptions,
headline concerts courtesy of global superstars and
interactive race villages catering to families. Standing
impressively at the size of eight football pitches, the
purpose-built free-to-the-public ‘Destination Village’ on
the breathtaking Corniche breakwater provided a hub
for plenty of entertaining on and off water activities, such
as rides, sailing schools, games and competitions, as well
as Volvo Ocean Race action. The packed programme
of exciting events included the Volvo Ocean Race
Academy team racing clinic and regatta, beach cleans and
workshops as part of the race’s ‘Keep the Oceans Clean
initiative’, and two impressive local Dhow racing regattas.
Getting up Close to Winning Vessels
Visitors also had the fantastic opportunity to get up close
to the fasting racing yachts in the world as the 70 Volvo
Open Race Yachts visiting the capital were displayed at
the Destination Village during the stopover. Jordana
and I were thrilled to have the chance to get a glimpse
behind the scenes to see how repairs are carried out and
modifications made to these supreme sailing machines by
dedicated shore teams. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team’s
shore base at the heart of the village featured see-through
walls and a sail loft open to the public. The attendance of
the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew, led by British double
Olympic medallist Ian Walker and the first ever UAE
national to compete in the race, Adil Khalid was a major
attraction and it was a thrill to see the team’s training
yacht and learn more about the challenging conditions on
board.
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