“It’s definitely going to be the tightest race in history. Success will be about not having any bad legs. You have got to have a strong team, you have got to sail fast, keep the boat in one piece, be smart and sail the right way.” IAN WALKER
Mid-December saw the crews and accompanying paraphernalia sail into the capital for the Abu Dhabi stop over of the round the world Volvo Ocean Racing (VOR) extravaganza. We were lucky enough to experience the inaugural stopover two years ago and the Coldplay concert that featured as part of the celebrations on New Years Eve, so we were keen (well I was) to pop down again to be part of this years action.
Abu Dhabi’s VOR Destination Village at the Corniche (source: Facebook/Abu Dhabi Events)
This year it was a long twenty-three day stopover for the crews over the festive period and the Destination village at Abu Dhabi’s Corniche came alive offering a wide variety of activities. A celebration of Emirati heritage along with all manner of entertainment was on offer for visitors including a hospitality area, open-air cinema, exhibitions, concerts, challenges, a hands on kids zone with masses of LEGO and Duplo, cafés and restaurants. There was also chance for visitors to see the yachts and teams up close and personal and to catch all the spectacular In-Port Race action and be part of the grand sendoff for the start of leg three to China.
A rather large Duplo gentleman marked the entrance to the Kids zone
The Meylas food truck offered up traditional Emirati cuisine
On the opening two nights, the BBC’s Blue Planet in Concert kicked off proceedings with its Arabian premiere, conducted by Oscar nominated composer George Fenton. The screening on a floating stage in the Corniche was accompanied by the seventy-five piece National Symphony Orchestra and was the stage for other concerts and events through the stopover.
Caught on camera browsing the stalls at the Destination Village (source: Facebook – Visit Abu Dhabi)
Nautical stripes and the VOR trophy a perfect combination (source: www.tapsnap.net)
The VOR which started in early October with the first In-port race in Alicante, Portugal then sailed from Cape Town on Leg two to reach the capital for the Christmas/New Year stopover. The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s (ADOR) own vessel Azzam (Arabic for determination) with its distinctive red, yellow and silver falcon livery, is taking part for the second time skippered again by British double Olympic silver medalist Ian Walker and is the most experienced team competing.
Two times Silver Olympic medalist Ian Walker is back at the helm of Azzam.
Azzam’s crew receive a great welcome in the Destination Village from the rapturous crowd (source:www.volvooceanrace.com)
In 2011/12 Walker and his crew, which included the first Arab/Emirati sailor Adil Khalid (helmsman/trimmer and part of the crew again this race) won three in-port races, experienced victory in the seventh leg and after damage to their boat finished in fifth place overall.
The 2014/15 race is the longest in VOR’s history navigating nearly 39,000 nautical miles (38,739 nm to be exact) around the globe stopping at eleven ports in eleven countries. The current race sees all the six competing teams (started as seven but Team Vestas was grounded during Leg 2 and is undergoing extensive repairs) racing in identical non-modified 65-foot carbon Volvo racing yachts and all the crews had to qualify for the race by sailing 2,000 nm non-stop.
The all-female SCA team (source:www.sport360.com)
Azzam was third in this year’s Abu Dhabi in-port race (source:www.volvooceanrace.com)
Having won the in-port race in Cape Town hopes were high for Azzam who won in Abu Dhabi last time but they were beaten to the honour by Team SCA, the all-female team skippered by another Brit, Sam Davies. The ladies on-board their distinctive pink yacht are the fifth all women team to participate since the VOR begun and the first to compete in over a decade. The team have a crew of twelve (eleven sailors and one onboard multimedia reporter) as opposed to the all-male teams that have nine members (eight sailors/one reporter).
The crew putting Azzam through its paces in The Solent, Southampton (source:www.volvooceanrace.com)
Azzam led the fleet out of the capital through the fog at the start of the third leg with the next stop in Sanya, China and from there the sailors will head to the ‘City of Sails’ Auckland, New Zealand. Next port of call will be in Itajaí in Brazil before heading the team’s head north to Newport, Rhode Island, America (new stop). The next stop is across the Atlantic to Lisbon followed by Lorient then on the ultimate leg, they will make a 24-hour Le Mans style pit-stop in the Netherlands at The Hague before the final run to the finish in Gothenburg, the Swedish home of Volvo. The grand finale will be a mid-summers final in-port race on June 27, 2015 in Gothenburg where the winners will receive the coveted VOR trophy.
Having toured the inside of one of the yachts, I have nothing but complete admiration for the sailors that not only face storm-force winds and ridiculous waves along the route with varying conditions and temperatures but do so while living, sleeping (well if you call it sleeping in tiny bunks or standing up) in a confined space on a vessel that is rarely completely upright . Crazy times and to the all-women team, your boat maybe pink but you are most definitely hardcore and I can only say ‘Go Girl Power’!
The striking red, yellow and silver falcon livery of Azzam (source:Facebook/AbuDhabiEvents)
As I write this today, the Chinese Dongfeng Race Team are out in front leading the field towards Sri Lanka with Team Brunel in second and ADOR currently in third place. You can follow Azzam and all the race action as it happens on YouTube, the VOR App, global TV channels, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram through a series of fantastic photos, videos and reports. Click here to find out all the options. You can also visit www.volvooceanracingabudhabi.com for regular updates and photos.
Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2014/2015. All rights reserved.