Abu Dhabi VOR team test their base
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has completed all preparation work on its fully-functioning, 324m² training base in Portugal, as the Volvo Ocean Race 2011/12 team begins Atlantic training ahead of the 39,000 nautical mile race’s Spanish start in October.
Housed in Cascais, Portugal, the purpose-built training facility includes six, 40ft, custom-fit containers, two yacht build tents, two sail loft tents, turnkey temporary office and support housing, and two eight-metre support boats.
The base is a pivotal staging area for the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA)-backed team to put its recently launched Volvo Open 70 racing yacht, Azzam - which means 'determination' in Arabic - through heavy weather training in the crashing waves off Southern Europe.
“This has been a truly international project from the beginning. From our global crew and world-wide training programme to Azzam’s multi-continent design and build process, we have traversed the planet in pursuit of excellence. With less than 100 days to go, we are making sure every second counts,” said Faisal Al Sheikh, Events Manager, ADTA.
With offshore gusts regularly blowing in excess of 25 knots, the team – which is skippered by double Olympic medallist, Ian Walker – is stress testing all design features of the state-of-the-art yacht, from bow to sails, as it readies to undertake the nine-month round the world race.
“The next two months in Portugal are critical to our preparations and aspiration to challenge for podium honours. We are trying our hardest to push the yacht to its absolute limits and beyond, so we can determine any weaknesses now and fix them. The name of the game is to avoid time-sapping issues occurring under race conditions,” said Walker.
“The weather in Portugal is perfect for sailing and it will good to let Azzam stretch her wings. It is also good for the team to be back training hard on the water; time is disappearing and we must ensure we’re at our best come the race start.”
Since arriving in the Portuguese sailing hotspot, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and its brilliant black Volvo Open 70 - which boasts, soaring across its bow and main sails, a striking falcon, the national emblem of the United Arab Emirates of which Abu Dhabi city is the capital - have been well received.
In addition to many fans and visitors, the Mayor of Cascais, Carlos Carreiras, made a VIP visit to welcome the Abu Dhabi crew and see Azzam in action.
“Premium teams select premium venues. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Cascais is, therefore, a perfect match - one of the best yacht teams in the world chooses one of the most spectacular and renowned sailing waters on the planet. Because of our unique natural conditions; because sport and business are linked today as never before; and because sailing is part of our Atlantic DNA, we consider the development of yachting venues a strategic priority for Cascais. The presence of the Abu Dhabi team in Cascais is a strong signal that we are on the right path,” said Carreiras.
“As well as providing starting points for countless explorations and discoveries, our Atlantic shores tell a long history of welcoming different peoples from around the world. We are now proud to welcome Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.”
The 2011/2012 Volvo Ocean Race will be contested around six continents and across four oceans before ending in Galway, Ireland, in summer 2012. Abu Dhabi will welcome teams this New Year after they complete a punishing leg from Cape Town. ADTA has committed to staging a fortnight-long, emirate-wide celebration to mark the Volvo Ocean Race arrival – from concerts and interactive race villages for the whole family, to great holiday packages across Abu Dhabi’s plethora of 4- and 5-star resorts.
The emirate is well progressed with plans for a specially-designed 55,000m² ‘Destination Village’ being built on Abu Dhabi’s picturesque Corniche breakwater. The ‘Destination Village’ – around the size of eight football pitches – will open free-of-charge to the public daily from December 30 this year to January 14, next year. ADTA anticipates welcoming more than 100,000 visitors through the gates.