Emirati crew announced for Abu Dhabi VOR campaign

Olympic sailor Adil Khalid win place from 120-strong field

Thursday January 27th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Arab Emirates

UAE national, Adil Khalid, is the latest crew member to secure his place aboard the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority-backed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team for the 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race, making him the first Emirati sailor to compete in the fully crewed round the world race.

Adil Khalid, who represented the UAE in both the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the Asian Games in November 2010, beat more than 120 Emirati hopefuls to earn his spot in Ian Walker's 11-strong crew.

The 22-year-old now carries the hopes of the emirate on his shoulders as he looks to honour the considerable responsibility of working towards, and sharing, the aspirations of his homeland in one of the world’s toughest, most extreme sporting challenges.

“The search for the UAE national to represent us in this challenge has been extensive, in-depth and highly competitive. This exhaustive process was necessary because the race demands and standards are exceptionally high, as are our own aspirations,” said His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman, ADTA and Team Principal of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

“We have been impressed by many of the applicants whose enthusiasm has been a credit to the nation. The final selection went down to the wire and at the end of the day Adil Khalid was the unanimous choice and we congratulate him on this achievement. All three finalists were worthy contenders but Adil Khalid had the edge in terms of sailing experience as well as his developmental potential.”

In a televised awards ceremony at the UAE capital’s Emirates Palace hotel, Adil was selected just ahead of fellow finalists, 26-year-old Butti Al Muhairi and 27-year-old Abdul Aziz Abdulla. He now joins a multi-national team, under the stewardship of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s skipper Ian Walker, in the emirate’s quest for podium honours in this 37-year-old competition where Abu Dhabi will make history by being the first Middle East host port, the first destination partner of the race and the first Arabian Gulf entry into this ultimate test of maritime prowess.

“This is a dream come true,” said Adil, who has competed in sailing events across Europe, Asia and Australia. “I am determined to do the team and the nation proud. This is a fantastic vote of confidence in me and I intend to live up to it to the very best of my ability. It is an opportunity of a lifetime and I want to thank everyone involved for enabling it to happen.”

Since the nationwide search competition began in October 2010, Adil and shortlisted candidates have undergone a rigorous three-month test programme, which included back-breaking fitness and endurance programmes to assess mental and physical strength, as well as a two-day sea trial in the Arabian Gulf.

To test sailing ability, the candidates were expected to carry out five different roles onboard – bow, pit, trimming, grinding and helming. For physical strength, a test of three consecutive grinds, with only a minute’s rest between each, of a fixed weight to the mast top was performed. And to determine the candidate’s ability to learn and be part of a team, they had to pack the spinnaker three times together. This was followed by intense psychometric testing and interviews.

Review of the final three candidates was undertaken by ADTA’s Director General, His Excellency Mubarak Al Muhairi and leading UAE sailing personalities, His Excellency Saeed Hareb, President of the UAE Marine Sports Federation and CEO of Dubai International Marine Club and His Excellency Ahmed Thani Al Rumaithi, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Sailing & Yachting Sports Club.

“Adil Khalid stood out in terms of experience, steadfastness and single-mindedness. He now has a unique opportunity to step up to a whole new class of sailing and will be solidly supported with an extracurricular mentor programme covering fitness conditioning, sports psychology and communications training. We will invest in Adil to ensure his readiness for this ultimate maritime challenge,” said Mubarak Al Muhairi.

On board the Abu Dhabi VOR entry, Adil joins the likes of Jules Salter, Justin Slattery, Craig Satterthwaite and Australian Wade Morgan.

A keen sportsman, Adil – who has successfully competed in both regional and international sailing championships – now has a life-changing regime ahead of him, before the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team takes delivery of its new, Farr-designed VO70, currently under construction at Persico SPA in northern Italy, this June.

With the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Abu Dhabi for New Year 2012, Adil will also be tasked with leading the procession of awe-inspiring Volvo Open 70 racing yachts into the emirate to a ‘homecoming’ unlike any other.

“We are finalising site negotiations for a prime waterfront location in Abu Dhabi city that will serve as the host marina and race village for the Abu Dhabi leg of the 2011/2012 Volvo Ocean Race,” explained Mubarak Al Muhairi. “We expect to break ground on the race village next month and progressively thereafter provide more details on its layout and design, visitor activities and community engagement programmes. The race boats will arrive here from Cape Town on New Year’s Eve giving us a unique opportunity to deliver a spectacular celebratory programme in true Arabian hospitality style for one and all.”

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