‘Azzam returns’: Abu Dhabi sets sail on 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race campaign

‘Azzam returns’: Abu Dhabi sets sail on 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race campaign

Volvo Ocean Race entrant, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, and its history making Azzam (determination) Volvo 70 race yacht, will return to top level competition in the UK this August with a fortnight of training and competitive sailing, culminating with the defence of its Rolex Fastnet Race title.

Having made history as the first Arabian contender in the global, nine month 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race, the team – lead by skipper Ian Walker, a British double Olympic medallist – will get its 2014/15 race campaign in full sail at the flagship Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week sailing festival (3-10th August), with crew selection at the programme’s core.

Taking on the three Big Boat Races during Cowes Week, the team – which will be based in Gosport on the UK South Coast – will trial key under-30 crew members in race conditions, before taking on the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race (11-13th August), which it won in record time in 2011.

“It is exciting to be getting Azzam ready to sail again. 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,” said Walker, a two-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran.

“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.”

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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, a 40 mile passage race, and a race around the Solent marks off England’s South Coast, will officially mark Azzam’s return to competition since completing the Volvo Ocean Race in Galway, Ireland last July.

The Rolex Fastnet Race, the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s iconic 608-mile race around the Fastnet Rock which will see the largest entrant in its 89-year-history, will be the final summer test for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, with Azzam going up for sale shortly after.

The race starts off Cowes on the Isle of Wight at the Royal Yacht Squadron. Leaving The Solent through The Needles Channel, the race follows England’s southern coastline down the English Channel, before rounding Land’s End. After crossing the Celtic Sea, the race rounds the Fastnet Rock off Ireland’s southwest coast before returning around the Scilly Islands and finishing at Plymouth. The monohull race record set by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in 2011 is 42 hours and 39 minutes.
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Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), 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. 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,” said Faisal Al Sheikh, Director Events Bureau, TCA Abu Dhabi.

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

Abu Dhabi will welcome the fleet from Recife, Brazil after one of the longest and potentially most-gruelling legs in the 40-year race history (9,707 nautical miles). The Abu Dhabi In-Port Race, which was won by home favourites Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in the last edition, will take place on January 2nd 2015, with the fleet departing for Sanya, China the following day. 

TCA Abu Dhabi, which brought the ‘Everest of Sailing’ to the Arabian Gulf for the first time in 2012 and is behind its return, is pushing forward a package-strong and tourism-driven Abu Dhabi stopover, including a fan-friendly Destination Village activation on the Corniche breakwater and multiple concert and entertainment offerings, that will leverage the highly sought-after New Year dates.

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.