Emirati sailing stars Adil Khalid and Butti Al Muhairi have begun training for the gruelling 39,000 nautical mile Volvo Ocean Race, due to begin in Spain this October.
Having beaten off more than 120 UAE nationals to earn their places in the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA)-backed outfit, the pair will spend the next two months split between the UK, Abu Dhabi and the Far East, learning a wealth of skill-sets.
Pictured: Abu Dhabi’s Butti Al Muhairi will learn sea survival and boat knowledge though to advanced seamanship and strength training
The programme, which combines instructor training and race experience, will be critical in the progression of the history-making duo, as they set to become the first UAE nationals to compete in this ‘Everest of Sailing’.
“With the hopes of a nation on their shoulders, preparing these two brave sailors with all the skills they need to survive the harsh and demanding conditions they will encounter is paramount,” said HE Mubarak Al Muhairi, director general, ADTA.
“The skills learnt over the next few months will give them a far greater understanding and appreciation of the mountainous challenge ahead of them and allow them to fit seamlessly into the team as it pushes for race honours.”
The first phase training programme, has seen the Emirati duo fly into the Isle of Wight, England, to join the High Performance Department of the UK Sailing Academy – one of world’s premier teaching facilities.
From April 18-25th, the Emiratis will re-join Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s skipper and double Olympic medallist, Ian Walker of Great Britain, in Hong Kong for the 448 mile San Fernando TP52 race.
The final phase, running May 11-30th, sees Adil and Butti return to the UK Sailing Academy for offshore, navigational and race training skill workshops.
“Already we have been pushed outside our comfort zones and it has been really intense,” said Adil, who also competed in the 2010 Asian Games, which took place in Guangzhou, China last November.
“We have been training with sailors from all over and it has been great learning from others too. We know the huge task ahead of us and how far we have to go to be ready for it. I have been in the Olympics but this is completely different. Not being prepared could be life threatening out in the ocean.”
ADTA, which was behind the emirate’s successful bid to become a 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race home port and the event’s first Official Destination Partner, believes the Abu Dhabi stop-over will be a race highlight giving visitors a unique opportunity to connect with its centuries-old maritime heritage.
It is also looking to its race involvement to position the emirate, which boasts a 400 kilometre coastline and over 200 natural islands, as a preferred winter sailing destination.
ADTA was also recognised by the World Travel Awards as the World’s Leading Tourist Board in 2010.