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Abu Dhabi and Victory in the Volvo Ocean Race

June 11th, 2015 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, The National, Volvo Ocean Race

I am a big fan of the Volvo Ocean Race. Sailing around the world in eight legs, going through all the oceans, circling the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn … one of the last great romantic/daredevil adventures we can have on a planet in an era when we can get nearly anywhere by air with no more than one stop.

This was a long day, in Volvo land, because the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing boat, Azzam, finished third in the short but punishing Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient, France, and secured the overall championship — with one leg still to sail.

We are describing it as the first international championship for the UAE but also for any of the Gulf nations.

How did the Abu Dhabi crew do it?

Glad you asked.

Some links that tell the story.

Here is the story we were banging out at about 7 a.m. local time, as Azzam crossed the finish line, which was shown on streaming video, two places ahead of their closest challenger — making it impossible for them to be caught on Leg 9. Thank goodness for the web.

Then, we posted to the web three pieces we had done in the days before, when we realized that victory could be clinched. A really nice piece on Azzam‘s semi-crazy skipper, Ian Walker, who seems not to sleep while the boat is at sea (as the photo with that story seems to suggest). Another on Adil Khalid, the one Emirati on the boat, though not on this leg. (True story: Our Volvo reporter dialed his number, at about 5 a.m., in France, as the boats were crossing the finish line, and woke him. Or certainly seemed to. Adil may owe it to us that he was down on the dock before Azzam actually tied up, and was there to wave the UAE flag for photos.) And the third, a comment/analysis piece I did on how Azzam won with a safe and sane approach to the race, with the emphasis being on getting to where they were going without the boat breaking.

The Abu Dhabi boat was a model of consistency in a race where everyone sailed the same boat, finishing in the top three in seven of the eight legs contested so far, winning two, including the epic Auckland to Brazil leg, which takes the fleet through the frigid Southern Ocean, then around Cape Horn — basically, the leg you want to win if you win only one because (the stat goes) more living people have reached the summit of Mount Everest than have sailed around Cape Horn.

And, later in the day today, our reporter, Osman Samiuddin, spoke to Ian Walker, the skipper, who conceded to being “shattered” and still seemed a bit loopy, conceding he hadn’t really grasped yet that Azzam had won. I think he lapsed into a deep-sleep-coma soon after talking to our man.

And for the print product, we updated our map-of-the-world graphic, as it pertained to this race, showing the order of finish in the first eight legs, along with which boat was the overall leader after the eight legs.

We didn’t want to leave uncovered any major aspect of this. Everyone involved in the victory deserved the coverage we provided. It was a big day in Abu Dhabi sports history.



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