Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team taste glory at the home of IWC’s Portuguese watches


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The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew, sponsored by IWC Schaffhausen, savoured the sweet taste of victory when they crossed the finishing line on 31 May. After one of the most exciting legs in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011–12, they are the first Arabian team to win a leg in the gruelling round-the-world sailing odyssey. French team Groupama took its second 24-hour Speed Record Challenge – an award sponsored by IWC Schaffhausen, the Official Timekeeper of the Volvo Ocean Race. Football legend and Friend of the Brand Luís Figo, along with football coach and former professional player Ricardo Sá Pinto, visited Lisbon at the invitation of IWC to pay tribute to the homeland of IWC’s Portuguese watch family.

After a nerve-racking, energy-sapping 12 days on the high seas, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing finally took its first victory in an offshore leg. During this seventh stage of the race, the crews had to surmount a number of challenges, such as an encounter with “Alberto”, the first tropical storm of the season, which generated windspeed spikes of between 40 and 50 knots. There were rarely more than 100 nautical miles between all six vessels. Thanks to some smart tactics, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing carved out a sizeable lead, which dwindled continuously as wind conditions took their toll. During the last 200 miles of the leg, the crew managed to retain the upper hand in a hard-fought battle with Groupama and passed the finishing line just under 6 minutes ahead of the French team.

Visibly overwhelmed after crossing the line at Lisbon on 31 May, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker said the win was one of the highlights of his sailing career. The Emirati team have undergone enormous trials and tribulations to reach the top of the podium, including being forced out of Leg 1 with a broken mast and failing to finish Leg 5 because of hull damage that saw them carry out a daring mid-ocean repair. “For all the people who follow the team in Abu Dhabi, and around the world, this victory is for you,” Walker said. “Our yacht is called Azzam, which means determination in Arabic, and we hope we’ve proved that the whole team has as much determination as anyone out there.” Georges Kern, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen, shared his pride and delight: “Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing have shown the world what a first-rate crew they are. As sponsors of the crew, we’re over the moon about a victory that this team of never-say-die sportsmen have more than deserved.”

Portuguese Yacht Club Chronograph Edition "Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012"

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IWC 24-hour Speed Record Challenge
Watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen is the Official Timekeeper of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011–2012 and sponsors the 24-hour Speed Record Challenge. The team that covers the greatest distance within a period of 24 hours in each leg is awarded the much-coveted trophy. After racking up 538 nautical miles during the leg from Miami to Lisbon, the Groupama yacht crew was presented with the IWC trophy by Edouard D’Arbaumont, Brand Manager Iberia. Groupama also won the prize in the second leg for a run of 478 nautical miles. The overall fastest time over the entire 8 months of the race will land each of the 11 members of the winning crew a Portuguese Yacht Club Chronograph Edition “Volvo Ocean Race 2011–2012”. IWC Schaffhausen will present the watches to the winning crew at the end of the race in Galway, Ireland.

Return to the historic roots of the Portuguese watch family
For IWC, the stopover in Lisbon has a particular significance. Since 1939, the Portuguese watch line has been part of the Swiss manufacturer’s collection. Edouard D’Arbaumont, Brand Manager Iberia, explained: “The spiritual roots of this watch family go back all the way to the era when Portuguese seafarers set out on their voyages of discovery. In 1939, IWC delivered the first Portuguese watches ordered by two importers in Lisbon and Porto: unusually large precision timekeepers with pocket-watch movements in the tradition of nautical instruments. They laid the foundation for a completely new type of wristwatch and at the same time wrote history.” The success story behind the watch family received due acclaim here in the host port of Lisbon when IWC Creative Director Christian Knoop used the press conference to focus on the heritage and the design process behind the Portuguese watches. The final highlight of the event came when participants had the chance to touch and feel the Portuguese Yacht Club Chronograph Edition “Volvo Ocean Race 2011–2012” for themselves. The special edition was designed to pay tribute to the “Everest” of sailing and the achievements of the participating crews.

Luís Figo and Ricardo Sá Pinto on Azzam
As Portugal’s star guests, football legend and IWC Friend of the Brand Luís Figo, together with former professional footballer and coach of Sporting Lisbon Ricardo Sá Pinto, honoured IWC Schaffhausen and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing with their presence. Ricardo Sá Pinto joined the team on board for Saturday’s In-Port Race. Luís Figo volunteered to act as “jumper” and, as a token of good luck, leapt from the deck of Azzam as it set off the next leg on Sunday. The eighth and penultimate stage will take the team 1,940 nautical miles to Lorient, on the Brittany coast of north-western France, where they are expected on 17 June 2012.

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