Getting the band back together
Highly decorated sailing veteran, British Olympian Neal McDonald, is to taking the helm as Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Performance Director in the team’s second bid for Volvo Ocean Race glory next year. Emirati star, 24-year-old Adil Khalid, has re-signed as an Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew member under the leadership of skipper Ian Walker.
Six-time Volvo Ocean Race legend McDonald has completed more than 200,000 nautical miles in the race over a nearly two decade long offshore career. Alongside Walker, he will lead Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s technical programmes, training camps and crew development to streamline the team’s victory pursuit in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, starting next October in Alicante, Spain.
“Neal is one of our generation’s best sailors and will bring a fresh, winning dynamic to the team’s preparation. Having played an instrumental part in a hat-trick of leg 1, 2 and 3 victories for Team Telefonica in the previous race, his broad depth and diversity of experience and knowledge will be critical in our next campaign,” said Walker.
“As a qualified naval architect he is extremely analytical and capable on the technical side. I have the upmost respect for Neal and he would always be my first choice on any team sheet. I can’t think of a better person to inspire our team for the challenges that lie ahead.
“With the advent of one-design boats the emphasis will be much more on the sailors and I hope that Neal will help us create the strongest team possible," added Walker, himself a two-time Volvo Ocean Race and America’s Cup veteran.
Meanwhile, Adil Khalid, who during the last race became the first Arab sailor to compete in and complete the global event, joins the team this week in the UK for his competitive Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing return, taking part in the Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week’s Big Boat Races (6-8th August) before crewing the team’s defence of its Rolex Fastnet Race record next week (11-13th August).
And Walker, who mentored the young Emirati Olympian during the 2011-12 campaign, said Khalid’s experience will serve the team well as it again prepares for a title tilt.
”Adil earned everybody's respect on board in the last race. He now has all that experience and with hard work he should grow into a senior team member. Adil is a very patriotic young man and a great role model for all young sailors in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates and the entire Arabian Gulf region. I am sure he will get to wave the UAE flag many more times during the next race," said Walker.
Joining his fellow countryman, 27-year-old Butti Al Muhairi, also returns to Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, on the shore team, after a successful stint in the previous race. Al Muhairi, Khalid’s reserve, will guide a core group of young Emiratis working across the shore-side operations.
Al Muhairi will be led by America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race specialist, Guy Barron, who joins as Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Shore Manager. With more than 25 years professional sailing under his belt, Barron will use his vast experience to optimise all shore-side operations throughout the 39,000 mile global event.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will announce its full crew line-up in the first quarter of 2014, when it will also receive its new one-design Volvo 65 race yacht.
McDonald commented: “I am lucky enough to have raced round the world six times and I hope to use my experience to ensure Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing wins this next race. With any offshore race, the next one is full of many varied challenges, some of which will not even be obvious at the start of the campaign. The solutions to each will inevitably involve a series of complex compromises. Getting the right balance in each of these compromises will be a huge part of winning this next race. Particularly with a one design boat playing centre stage in the 2014-15 race, the biggest challenge will be to get the best out of the entire team at all the critical stages of the campaign. Getting the right personnel and planning the campaign properly from the start appear to be the most important parts to getting it right.
“After the last race it was clear to me that, at my stage in life, I was not going to do another Volvo campaign that involved me as a sailor in a manner that I had before. I had never given up on the possibility of getting involved in a more behind the scenes role. When Ian Walker started talking to me I was excited to hear more as I see Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing having a real chance of winning this race.”
Adil Khalid added: “Taking part in my first Volvo Ocean Race campaign was a dream, now with a second chance at it, I want to make winning the reality. We are already so much further ahead in this campaign than before and I feel that I have learnt so much, yet have much more to prove. For us, winning the race is the only goal, so we can make everyone at home proud and continue inspiring the many young Arab sailors to reach for the stars, showing them that anything is possible with determination and hard work.”
Guy Barron: “I think as a professional sailor with a wealth of experience across most of the major regattas, I bring a vast amount of knowledge to Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. I understand what sailors need and what makes a boat go fast. I also know how a team works and how it needs to be motivated.
“The biggest challenge for the shore team will be to make sure the boat doesn't break down and the sailing team can push her hard and fast. With the new one design, this is going to be a big challenge. We haven't seen a boat hit the water yet so I will need to learn all about how they will perform and then put together a team that can best support our sailing guys and who can work efficiently with Volvo Ocean Race to streamline our overall offering.”