Date — 5 July, 2012
Galway, Ireland, 3rd July 2012 – Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, IWC’s Team in the Volvo Ocean Race, sailed into yachting history books last night as it became the first Arabian entry to complete the gruelling, nine-month round the world odyssey, after placing sixth in the final short sprint from Lorient, France to Galway, Ireland – the event’s 10th and last stopover.
The Volvo Ocean race is the ultimate yachting challenge – and IWC is not only behind the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team and their mighty boat – Azzam – but also official Timekeeper of this ultimate race.
Having battled across some of the world’s most treacherous seas in the punishing 39,000 mile global circumnavigation, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing – which also fielded the first Gulf national to contest the race – 23-year-old Olympian Adil Khalid – finished the event in the early morning, sailing into Galway’s waters to a rapturous applause.
It was a fitting end to Abu Dhabi’s debut campaign in the ‘Everest of Sailing’, returning to the same waters on which the team made its global competitive debut a year ago, when – sailing its sleek black race yacht, Azzam (determination) – it smashed the iconic Rolex Fastnet Race monohull record.
The final leg, despite its relatively short length, was no easy task for the Volvo Ocean Race fleet. Having to contend with The Irish Sea, which is notorious for strong winds and big seas churned up by the Celtic continental shelf, the fleet closely battled it out before facing a strong westerly breeze and huge seas as it passed Blasket Island on the south-west tip of Ireland.
And it was all to play for in the pitch-black final straight run up to the three Aran Islands, which mark the entrance to Galway Bay.
Despite the wet and cold conditions, tens of thousands braved the weather to welcome the fleet in the early morning, and it was Abu Dhabi’s Khalid – who donned a hand-made traditional Emirati khandoora, in the green, orange and white of the Irish flag – that roused a special cheer.
Almost lost for words, the young UAE national – who has made waves in the race since beating 120 of his countrymen for a spot on the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi)-backed team – was clearly overjoyed to complete the back-breaking journey, which began in Alicante, Spain last October and has rounded five continents, including making its first stop to the UAE capital – another feather in the cap for Abu Dhabi.
After a few days recovery, the teams will battle it out in the last points scoring opportunity of the 2011/12 campaign – the stadium-style Galway In-Port Race on July 7th.
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