Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing prepares for race of a lifetime

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing – the Abu Dhabi-backed contender in the 2014/2015 Volvo Ocean Race – has ramped up its campaign for the round-the-world endurance sailing trophy with its 65-foot racing yacht Azzam setting off on an 8,000 mile double Atlantic Ocean training crossing.

The journey from the team’s training base in Cascais, Portugal to Newport, Rhode Island is expected to take the nine man crew around 11 days and will be the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority-backed 2014/2015 syndicate’s longest offshore test so far.

ADOR’s double Olympic silver medallist skipper Ian Walker says the voyage marks a major milestone in the preparation for Abu Dhabi’s second consecutive Volvo Ocean Race challenge.

“So far we have completed a little over 7000 training miles on the new-look, Azzam,” Walker said.

“Our longest offshore sail to date was a four day 1500 mile training sail around Madeira, over to the North African coast and back to Cascais.

“There’s a big difference between these smaller trips and going offshore for ten to 12 days.

“The transatlantic is going to be a big step up but I think that mentally it will be good for the team to be offshore for a long period.

“I often get asked what the hardest leg of the Volvo Ocean Race is.

“It’s always a difficult one to answer as each leg has its own challenges, but for sure the Atlantic crossing has seen some of the worst conditions for many of the teams in previous races.

“You must treat the Atlantic with the respect it deserves.”

During the journey the crew will continue to gather key performance data vital to identifying how to sail Azzam at peak performance come race time.

However, Walker confirmed the sailors would be pushing the Abu Dhabi yacht just as hard as if it were a leg of the race.

“Everyone has been looking forward to this new training phase,” he said.

“We’re going to be sailing in full race mode and our goal is simply to get to Newport as quickly as we can.

“We will be testing some of the race plans we have put in place.”

As well as putting Azzam through her paces offshore, the ADOR crew will also be taking careful notes about how best to approach Newport from the sea – intelligence which Walker says could be vital when they race into Newport next year at the end of the 5000-mile Volvo Ocean Race sixth leg from Itajaí in Brazil.

UAE sailor and Olympian Adil Khalid says setting off on this first Atlantic crossing for the new Volvo Ocean 65 Azzam yacht recalled memories of Leg 7 and the battering the fleet took from a fierce storm around halfway across.