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S IMPLY ABU DHABI
Outstanding Performance from Azzam
The six-strong Volvo Ocean Race fleet – including the
UAE’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team – competed in
a truly exhilarating in-port race on the 13th January,
culminating in jubilant celebrations in the capital which
we were delighted to be part of. Aptly named ‘Azzam’
meaning ‘determination’, Abu Dhabi’s Yacht reflects the
resolve of the nation to succeed as it carries the 11-strong
Ocean Racing crew across some of the world’s most
perilous seas in a challenge which some have referred to as
an ‘Everest of Sailing’. As HE Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon
Al Nahyan, Team Principal of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
asserted;
“Azzam reflects our determination to deliver an outstanding
performance in this race and to strive as best as possible for a
podium place. It also reflects the fortitude shown by the pearl divers
and traders who shaped our ancient maritime heritage.”
As tall as a 12-storey building and as long as two London
double decker buses the intercontinental team crewing
this fine race contender faced a mean feat out on the water
tackling the prevailing winds. The UAE entry’s highly
proficient crew comprised a mainstay of Volvo veterans
and a UAE national, under the competent leadership of
double Olympic medallist and 2008-09 Volvo Ocean
Race skipper, Ian Walker. Friday 13 may be unlucky for
some, but fortune favours the brave and this couldn’t be
truer for hometown heroes Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing as
they claimed their second inshore victory, winning the
Etihad Airways In-Port Race in front of thousands of
jubilant local supporters.
A Glorious Triumph in the presence of Royalty
Despite the pressures of being the home team and the
presence of two Royals watching the race, the determined
team put aside anxieties to power home in Azzam in a
thrilling win that secured them six valuable points in the
Volvo Ocean Race. Watching the Abu Dhabi team sail to
glory on a perfect course to beat Groupama by 57 seconds
and win the Etihad Airways In-Port race was a magical
moment. Abu Dhabi’s Azzam established a leading
position as the fleet started the second lap of the eight-
plus mile course in a southerly breeze reaching almost
seven knots.
Going head to head with Groupama, for much of the
race, for an instant Abu Dhabi surrendered their lead
but Ian Walker’s crew pulled things back in determined
style impressively stealing the lead from Telefónica with
just three miles to go in a frenzied downwind dash for
the finish line. The locals maintained the lead for the rest
of the race, and pulses must have been racing onboard,
as they were on shore. The fans packing the Corniche
breakwater held their breaths Ian Walker and his team
crossed the line after racing in a morale-boosting victory
in just less than an hour. His Royal Highness Prince
Andrew, Duke of York and His Highness Sheikh Nahyan
bin Mubarak Al Nahyan raced on board Azzam to add
some regal flair to proceedings for the victorious occasion.
Prince Andrew stood proudly beside talented Skipper
Ian Walker as Azzam crossed the line – what a rewarding
moment for us all, crew and supporters alike. As Ian
Walker said;
“Everyone has been wishing us luck during the stopover and there
were so many people in the village and out on the water cheering
us on.”
The positive support and excitement from onlookers
was richly rewarded by Azzam’s stunning triumph and
Jordana and myself were certainly in fine company as the
thousands of spectators on the shores included former
British Prime Minister Tony Blair. It was a real honour to
be amongst such prestigious players and witness the dream
victory first hand. As Ian Walker surmised;
“We so wanted to win the race so we were prepared to take
risks. We knew if we could win it would be very special
for everyone.
As part of the most competitive fleet the event has
witnessed, the crew aboard Azzam did Abu Dhabi proud.
Amongst the 11-strong crew, one man in particular was
ecstatic about the victory – local sailor Adil Khalid. As
the first Emirati to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race this
was a truly historic moment for the ambitious seafarer and
he celebrated the triumph by waving the UAE flag as they
finished.
He later said
”I am so pleased with this win here in Abu Dhabi.
The stopover has been wonderful and this is a great result for us as a
team in our home port.”
The Sweet Taste of Success
Having thought Telefónica, would win that hands
down, victory tasted all the sweeter for the triumphant
Abu Dhabi team as they came in ahead of the favourite.
PUMA who dis-masted in the first leg, pulled things back
to take second and Franck Cammas’ Groupama came
third. A jubilant Walker remarked how minor changes
to the vessel during the stop over seemed to have a hugely
positive effect;
“I think we just found out where our boat is fast ... I think one
of the things we’re all seeing is that you can get big differences in
speed with minor changes to the boat so we’re just trying to educate
ourselves really.”
The triumphant fleet left the celebrations as they set sail
for stage two of the third leg to the Chinese city of Sanya
– taking them through a danger zone where pirates are
active – to race for more than 3,000 nautical miles across
the Indian Ocean, through the Malacca Strait and into
the South China Sea. Let’s hope their winning spree
continues apace.
Thank You for the On and Off Shore Magic
We would like to extend a huge thanks to all the
organisers of this incredible event and to everyone as the
port and Destination Village for making our trip such an
exciting and memorable one. It is estimated that from the
opening on December 31 2011 to January 14 2012, as
many as 100,000 visitors passed through the gates of the
Destination Village and Jordana and I feel truly blessed to
count amongst them. Positively bustling with exhibitions,
shows and simulators, the village was a hive of activity
and we were caught up in a thrilling adventure where
we were treated to exceptional hospitality. The perfect
combination of sporting action down on the Corniche
and the lively entertainment laid on in exceptional style in
the village that kept us enthralled as the incredible action
unfolded. To be such an integral part of a nine-month
odyssey round the world was a genuine honour for Abu
Dhabi and one that we personally hope will be repeated,
so we can save the date for the A&J diaries.
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