Ian Roman Photography / Volvo Ocean Race

Abu Dhabi back in business

Ian Walker-skippered team to compete at Cowes Week and in the Fastnet Race

Monday June 17th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

Volvo Ocean Race team, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and VO70 Azzam will return to competition this August with a fortnight of training and competitive sailing, culminating with the defence of the team's Rolex Fastnet Race title.

The team led by skipper Ian Walker will get its 2014/15 race campaign underway at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week. There they will compete in the three Big Boat Races primarily for crew selection. With the team based out of Gosport they will look to trial key under-30 crew in race conditions, before taking on the Rolex Fastnet Race starting on 11 August.

“It is exciting to be getting Azzam ready to sail again," said skipper Ian Walker. "You become quite attached to a yacht when you spend so much time sailing it around the world. Cowes Week has always been one of my favourite regattas since I was a kid. It will be a bit scary sailing such a big, fast boat in the confines of the Solent but I think the Big Boat Races will be spectacular.

“The Fastnet is an iconic race. It was great to break the monohull race record in 2011 but we will need some good fortune to defend it against a few larger, faster boats in 2013. The Volvo 70s need windy, reaching conditions to really come into their own. Crew trials and training in a competitive race environment is the number one goal for the summer. We will be looking at a few new crew members for the future of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. A quarter of the crew must be under 30 for the next race, so their appointment will be key to our success."

The Big Boat Races, which will likely include a race around the Isle of Wight and a race around the Solent marks will officially mark the Abu Dhabi team's return to competition since completing the Volvo Ocean Race in Galway, Ireland last July.

Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, which owns the team and is behind the highly anticipated New Year 2015 UAE capital Volvo Ocean Race stopover, the third on the global route after Brazil, says Azzam’s return to action marks a fitting start to its next campaign.

“Having started our first Volvo Ocean Race campaign at Cowes in 2011, it is fitting that we have gone full circle to start our next title push here again," said Faisal Al Sheikh, Director Events Bureau, TCA Abu Dhabi. "It gives us a compelling platform to speak to the sailing world and with a hugely successful Abu Dhabi stopover under our belts, as well as a much more mature watersports offering, we are in a perfect position to let the sailing world know what destination Abu Dhabi can offer, both as a Volvo Ocean Race host city and as a near year round watersports destination of distinction."

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is set to announce its full 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race crew line-up in the first quarter of 2014, when it will also receive its new one-design Volvo 65 race yacht. At least one UAE national will be included in the reduced eight man crew line-up, with more Emiratis involved on the shore team.

Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, will host the third 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race stopover from mid-December 2014 until 3 January 2015.

TCA Abu Dhabi is once again working closely with a number of governmental bodies to successfully deliver the stopover, including Abu Dhabi Sailing & Yacht Club - the Official Host Yacht Club and key partner in the roll-out of the stopover and junior sailing initiatives; the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club - Technical Headquarters, which will be home to the team areas and international television broadcast compound, and the Event Security Committee, Ministry of Interior, Critical Infrastructure & Coastal Protection Authority, Department of Transport, SEHA, Abu Dhabi Customs, Abu Dhabi Municipality and Abu Dhabi Airports Company.

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