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Ian Walker, skipper of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, talks to VSail.info

Posted on 07 April 2014 by Valencia Sailing

Last week, during the Volvo Ocean Race presentation in Alicante, we had the opportunity to catch up with the skipper of the Abu Dhabi-backed entry and talk about the team and the round-the-world race:

VSail.info: At what stage is the preparation of your team right now?
Ian Walker: We just finished our first block of training. We launched the boat pretty much at the beginning of March, then we left England on the 10th of March and arrived in Cascais on the 15th. We have done two weeks of sailing and now have a ten-day work break. The sailors are off while the shore crew is going through the job list, checking everything over. It’s basically like the first service after having done a couple of thousand miles. What we have planned is to do two more blocks of training here in Cascais where we typically do three weeks on, followed by a week off or a maintenance week if you like. After that, we will sail over to America and then back to England for the Cowes Week and the Round Britain race.

VSail.info: Is your preparation going as expected? Are you following the schedule you had initially set up?
Ian Walker: Yes, we are absolutely bang on. We had scheduled to start in Cascais on the 15th of March and that was the day we arrived. I have to say though that the boat went into the water about a week late, largely because of all the bad weather in England in January and February. The sea trials took a lot less time than expected, so we sort of lost a week and then got it back during the sea trials. As a result, we currently are bang on where we scheduled to be.

VSail.info: How was the first offshore sail from England to Cascais?
Ian Walker: It was a really easy trip. It was basically light-air running the whole way. I don’t think we saw more than 15 knots. We had the spinnaker up or the engine on, the whole way.

VSail.info: Despite the short time you have spent on the boat so far, what is the initial impression you have of the VO65′s, when compared to the VO70′s?
Ian Walker: As I said, since we got here we have done an additional two weeks of sailing. We did a pretty windy offshore, about 350 miles, all of it over 24 knots. So, we have seen the boat under most conditions. I think that you can’t really compare it to a VO70. The design brief was very different, so it’s not a VO70. It has similar traits, similar deck layout but for sure it’s depowered relative to the VO70. The water ballast is quite interesting, the three water tank ballast is a feature we didn’t have in the VO70′s and that makes quite a big difference to performance. It’s quite fun getting to grips with that. The rig is good, the sails are good but there are, obviously, teething problems we need to straighten out, just like in any other new boat. This is quite a lengthy process, because in order to get anything changed we need to get at least half the teams to agree and then we have to get the Volvo Ocean Race committee to agree. So, it’s quite frustrating in a way that you just can’t make the boat your own, if you like. You just can’t do all the little things that make things more efficient towards how you want them. You have to go through a process with all the other teams. There is going to be a sort of frustrating period to get through but hopefully, we’ll get through all that and we’ll have a boat that works properly.

It’s definitely a lot stronger. You can feel it upwind in waves. The boat feels very strong and I have to say, you have to credit them for a boat that came out of the shed working pretty well. I think that Bouwe Bekking did just two days of sea trials and we did three when you would normally expect to do at least two weeks! I suppose that’s the benefit of being the third and fourth boats out of the shed, because a lot of those major teething problems have been fixed. Again, it’s definitely depowered, it’s much more tippy. They have done quite a few things to make them easier to sail, the steering is a lot more balanced, the headsails are much smaller. They are very tippy boat and I think we’ll see a lot more broaching, a lot more reefing and a lot more sail changes down range. So, it’s easier to sail in some regards, harder to sail in other regards. I’d say it’s a bit easier physically.

Is the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race his to lose? Photo copyright Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

VSail.info: Is it physically easier, despite the fact you have less crew than the VO70′s?
Ian Walker: I say it’s easier, mainly because you have non-overlapping jibs. You don’t have the big jib tack to do, you don’t have headsail peels with two jibs on the headstay to do, which are always the hardest peels. In addition, you have fewer sails and the sails are smaller, so the stack is a little bit lighter and moving sails around the boat is easier. When I did my first Volvo Ocean Race on a VO70, if I remember well we had 11 sails, three of which were big jibs or jib tops, whereas now we have seven sails. Without those last four sails, especially when they are big jibs in their bags, tacking is a lot easier. The stack is a lot smaller than it used to be. Having said that, they are still bloody heavy when they are wet and nobody enjoys moving them. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, I’m just saying it’s different.

VSail.info: You just mentioned you would go through a “frustrating” period where you would be unable to make the boat “your own”. Isn’t that however the fundamental philosophy, the cornerstone of the strict one-design concept? Nobody will have their “own boat” since every single VO65 has to be identical to all the others.
Ian Walker: Absolutely, and I’m a big supporter of that. I think Volvo Ocean Race are quite right to be really strict on what you can change and I agree with that. The reason I used the word “frustrating” is that if it’s even a very small thing, such as a little rope loop to guide a rope through or to clip yourself onto, or to add some non skid by the galley. I mean, really non performance enhancing small things that just make your life easier. If it is your own boat, you just go ahead and do it. It could be really anything. It could be just making a bag to put something in. We are not allowed to do absolutely anything.

Everything is supplied by the organizers, even the food bags. If you want to make, let’s say, a bag to put your computer in, on deck, you have to ask for permission and then all the teams have to agree, so that everybody can make the same bag. What I’m saying is that it’s a process that has to be gone through. I think it’s a worthwhile process because that’s what guards the one-design nature of the boats and the VO65 is far more one-design than even a Laser. On a Laser you can put your own tiller extension, you can change the mainsheet rope, you can cut the ropes the length you want to or you can put your own compass on it. On the VO65′s you aren’t allowed to do anything of that, you can’t just cut off 2cm from the end of the mainsheet. It really is the most one-design boat ever, in my opinion, on a grand scale. That comes with a lot of advantages but, on the short term, while we are all getting used to the boat, there will be just a few frustrations.

VSail.info: Overall, despite the small temporary frustrations, are you in favor of the move to one-design boats? Do you think the event will benefit from that? Would have Abu Dhabi entered the race the same had the previous boats been kept in this edition as well?
Ian Walker: I think Abu Dhabi would have entered but the reality is that there wouldn’t have been a race. The budgets have come down dramatically and, more importantly, teams that historically wouldn’t have had any chance, this time have, certainly, a chance in putting a good performance in some parts of the race and, why not, doing well overall.

In my opinion, it will make it a better race, and more importantly, there IS going to be a race. I think that if they didn’t make the change there wouldn’t even be a race. I really don’t think we could have the teams we have now with the previous budgets required for the VO70′s in the time you need them in order to design and build a boat.

VSail.info: You say that budgets have come down “dramatically”. Can you quantify this? How much has the Abu Dhabi budget dropped in this edition compared to the previous one?
Ian Walker: Last time, we were one of the smaller-budget teams. Groupama had the biggest budget, followed by Telefónica and we were on a par with Camper, so one of the smaller budgets among the teams with new boats. Our budget this time is 25% less than the last race and we are operating for a longer period as well. Our budget is now spread over a longer time frame and in reality the savings are even grater than that.

VSail.info: Let’s move on to the sailing crew. With Chuny’s announcement, your racing crew is now complete. Has the VO65 changed in anything the crew selection process? Do you need sailors with different skills compared to the previous editions?
Ian Walker: I don’t think there are major differences and if there is one, it is that we need a higher percentage of helmsmen. You still need the same number of helmsmen as last time  except that you only have eight people onboard instead of ten. Therefore, I think it’s harder to justify utilitarian sailors, like just a bowman, just a pitman or just a grinder. You need more helmsmen as a percentage of the team but I think we have a brought a similar nature of people. The people that were good at sailing the VO70 will be equally good at sailing the VO65. There is less of an emphasis on expert knowledge of people that could set up a VO70  or design sails. Maybe some of those skills are less relevant now.

The average age has come down as well and I think we have a relatively young team, compared to some teams in the past. For Abu Dhabi it has been quite nice since half of our team sailed with us in the last race, so we have some continuity. Some of the others are guys that I would have liked to hire last time but they had already signed for other teams. We also tried to get somebody from a different team in the last race. We have Chuny and Andrew “Animal” McLean from Camper, we have Neal McDonald from Telefonica or Phil Harmer from Groupama. We have a lot of discussions about the previous races, what they felt was good in their team and we are trying to learn from what went on before.

For the first time ever in the history of the Volvo Ocean Race, all boats will be strictly identical. Photo copyright Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

VSail.info: Did the fact you need a higher percentage of helmsmen make it harder to find the right crew?
Ian Walker: I think in particular, when you look at the Under-30′s there is lots of really good sailors. I received a lot of CV’s from bowmen and mastmen that were very good sailors but is was harder for them. I need an Under-30 that can steer and I can’t afford to have two Under-30′s that don’t steer the boat! That immediately limits the pool of people you can look at. It’s a bit of a challenge in the sport right now. When we were sailing the America’s Cup V5 boats or the VO70′s, there were people making a career being a mastman, pitman or bowman. If you now look at the America’s Cup boats, in essence you have helmsmen, trimmers and grinders. On the VO65 we need helmsmen and wherever possible the biggest and strongest guys. That is quite a challenge, because a lot of helmsmen are generally smaller because they might come from Olympic classes. There is fewer big, strong guys that have helmed in the highest level. That’s just a function of how people grow up through the sport.

VSail.info: You said that this time there is going to be a race. How would you rate your competition? Is this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race your to lose?
Ian Walker: I don’t know, I think it’s everybody’s to lose. The big difference this time is that since everybody has the same boat, everybody has a chance whereas I think, with hindsight, looking at previous races, a lot of teams had no chance before they even got going. The race is everybody’s to lose. Having said that, the fact is that it is our second race with the same sponsors, the same core core, manager and logistics. We have learned a lot from what’s gone before, so I very much expect to be at the front of the pack, to be one of the better teams. However, we don’t know yet what is going to win this race. We don’t know whether it’s going to be the team with the best navigator or the fittest team or the team with the best helmsman and trimmers. We actually don’t know what the decisive factor is. so we are trying to cover all those bases. Looking at previous races, it was, undoubtedly, about who could get the fastest package of masts, sails and sailors.

We still have a lot to learn about what a one-design race is going to look like. I don’t know what the speed difference might or might not be. If you look at other one-design classes, even Lasers, you see quite big differences between them. It’s amazing how that can happen when everybody has such similar equipment.

VSail.info: Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, stated that each and every piece on the VO65′s will have at most one or two millimeters of difference on each boat. If that is so, where would any speed difference come from?
Ian Walker: I don’t believe there was anything more they could do to make identical boats, in terms of full-size female carbon moulding, in terms of weight-equalizing the rudders, daggerboards, masts or hulls. I really do believe the VO65 is much more one-design than a Laser but, as I say, you tend to always get speed differences. These will come from how people sail the boat, how they trim the sails, how they set the boats up. In most one-design classes you can still change the length of your forestay, adjust your rigging but here you cannot even do that. What you do is pull your sails in and point and shoot. It’s going to be very interesting to see what differences there are.

VSail.info: The race route is practically identical to last time. Does the fact the VO65 is slower than the VO70 make any difference? Will that imply any changes into your strategy?
Ian Walker: We will take more food [laughs]! We haven’t sailed on all points of sail but I would say the VO65 feels pretty good in the light air, so it’s not far off in light winds. It has less righting moment, so it will definitely be slower upwind and reaching, by a significant margin, I’d say. I think the VO65 could be quite quick off the wind, so I think we could still see some big mileages on the wider angles. I think the struggle will be in the tighter angles and in lighter winds maybe because the jibs are smaller. That will all unfold soon.

If the boats are a bit slower that might keep them closer together and make even better racing. However, it still is a fast boat, a grand-prix boat and everybody looking at it don’t really see any difference between this one and the VO70. Don’t forget either that the VO70 was a pretty radical machine that had a lot of problems that came with it in terms of breakages and risk for the crews. The VO65 is a step in the direction they want to go.

Will the VO65′s make the Volvo Ocean Race a closer race? Who wouldn’t love to see seven boats finishing a few minutes apart from each other after crossing the Pacific Ocean? Photo copyright Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

VSail.info: In what regards the breakages and the one-design rule what is the procedure if you, unfortunately, suffer from a breakage in the middle of the Pacific? What can you repair and fix onboard a VO65?
Ian Walker: I think that if we had to do something unorthodox in order to finish the leg because of a breakage, I think that would be fine in the eyes of the measurers. Let me give you an example. Normally, you have to fly the J1 from the J1 halyard, the J2 from the J2 halyard, etc. Let’s say we destroyed a lock or lost the halyard, I think we would be allowed to re-rig another halyard in its place, as a temporary repair.

VSail.info: Once you finish the leg and reach the stopover, will the “Shared Services” team take over and revert the boat to its original state?
Ian Walker: The work on the boat in the stopover is partly going to be done by shared services or the “boatyard”, as they call it, and partly by our team. Essentially, our own team is going to be responsible for it but, certainly, the parts we all have from common suppliers, such as the keel hydraulics, the Volvo engine or the Harken winches, will be serviced by the “boatyard”. The same technicians will treat all of the boats. There are other areas which we will do ourselves, internally, such as servicing the deck gear, cleaning, maybe even repainting the bulb or the finn. It’s a little bit of a mixture. Some will be done by VOR suppliers, under VOR’s management, and some by our won team.

The sails are a good example. Let’s say we rip a sail in half. That sail repair will be done by North Sails on behalf of the race organizers. At the same time, we will be responsible for giving the sailmakers the list of repairs they need to do, how to handle our own branding on the sails, repair the sail bags. There are elements of sailmaking and management we will need to do ourselves and elements that need to be done by organizers.

VSail.info: How much shore crew do you need then?
Ian Walker: We have six shore crew, in the true essence of the word. We have two boatbuilders, one of whom concentrates on the engineering, one rigger, a shore manager, a sailmaker and another young person that is in charge of the rib and helps all round. In the last race we had twelve. On top of that, we have a chef, a physio, a commercial team, a logistics person, an accountant, a person in charge of food and clothing, a PR and communications person and a general manager. Our total number is 24 people that will be travelling with the team, compared to close to 40 in the last race.

Don’t forget there is a big feat to VOR for shared services. Last time we had a guy whose job was to service the winches and deck gear and this time we don’t since the VOR employs one to do that job for all the teams. Last time we might have flown in a Cariboni engineer to do a day and a half of servicing of the keel hydraulics and then the same person would have gone and do one or two more teams or other teams might have flown in their own engineer. It is much more efficient now since there is an economy of scale.

The biggest saving, potentially, is in the spares you carry. Last time, every team had their own spare mast while now the organization has three spare masts.

VSail.info: What will happen if the breakages on the boats are more than the spares available? Has this been contemplated by the organiztion?
Ian Walker: It’s a risk and something the shore managers are discussing. If we get spares of everything for everybody they we might just as well buy them ourselves. The reality is that we are NOT going to break all the masts in the fleet and the worst-case scenario, in what regards masts, could be two boats hitting their rigs in an in-port race. Potentially, the worst scenario is two masts falling down in a collision. But even in the previous races, that would have been a big drama. It’s not that teams had their masts sitting their, on the ground. I think the plan they have now is to have one mast stationed in Europe, another one stationed at the Dubai airport and a third one in Auckland. We would be pretty unlucky to break three masts in the time frame of not being able to build a new one, especially given the fact, the design of the mast and rigging is more conservative than previously. Everything has been designed and built much more conservatively, so that doesn’t keep awake at night!

VSail.info: Is there anything that keeps you awake at night in what regards the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing?
Ian Walker: Right now, nothing keeps me awake at night. We have a very strong team, a very nice of people and it’s a pleasure to come to work. We have a very good shore team, the sponsors are right behind us and everybody believes in what we are trying to do. For the moment, everything is fine. Once racing starts, it all comes down to how well you do on the water. Everybody is happy when you win and nobody is happy when you don’t win.

If there is one thing that is always on my mind at the moment is to work out what is important and what isn’t, what is going to be the difference between the team that wins and the ones that don’t win!

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Legendary Spanish sailor ‘Chuny’ completes Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing line-up

Posted on 27 March 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing] Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) – Abu Dhabi’s contesting squad for the 2014/2015 round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race – has completed its eight-man crew line-up with the signing of Spain’s Roberto ‘Chuny’ Bermúdez de Castro Muñoz.

A Volvo Ocean Race veteran, 44-year-old ‘Chuny’ has now joined the team at its Portuguese training base in Cascais.

‘Chuny’ is one of Spain’s most accomplished professional sailors having represented his country at the Athens 2004 Olympics and raced for Spanish teams in the America’s Cup and the highly competitive Audi MedCup. His Volvo Ocean Race track record features podium finishes in four out of the five races he’s competed in.

Chuny finished third overall on Galicia 93 Pescanova in the 1993/94 Whitbread Race, before going one better in the 2001-2002 Volvo Ocean Race when he was second overall aboard Assa Abloy alongside current ADOR Performance Director Neal McDonald as Skipper.

After another third in the 2005-06 edition aboard Brasil 1, in 2008-09, Bermúdez recorded his only result outside the top three, when he finished seventh on Dutch entry Delta Lloyd.

Spanish sailor “Chuny” completes Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew

In the last race, sailing alongside ADOR’s Andrew ‘Animal’ McLean aboard CAMPER, Chuny finished second overall.

“Chuny’s Volvo Ocean Race experience is remarkable,” said Ian Walker. “As well as being one of the most sought after professional sailors around, he’s also a thoroughly nice guy and fits perfectly into our line-up.”

Now taking on the race for a remarkable sixth time, the affable Spaniard is gunning for victory and says he joined ADOR because he believes it has what it takes to bring the coveted Volvo Ocean Race trophy to Abu Dhabi.

“I know all the crew and I have sailed with Animal, SiFi, the ADOR navigator, its bowman Justin ‘Irish’ Slattery and Neal McDonald before,” Chuny said.

“I’ve only ever raced against Ian and have a lot of respect for him and the rest of the crew as fierce competitors. That’s how I know this is a good strong team and one I’m proud to be a part of.”

 

As a member of the CAMPER team during the 2011/12 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, Chuny saw at first hand the welcome the race fleet received on its arrival into Abu Dhabi, and the Spaniard is looking forward to a similar reception when he arrives into the UAE capital in December as part of the home team.

 

“Abu Dhabi was such a special part of the Volvo Ocean Race last time around and I have really fond memories of the time we spent there,” said Chuny.

 

“The welcome from everyone in the emirate was unforgettable – so warm and hospitable – and the celebrations and events that took place around the stopover were the best of the whole race. This time I’m looking forward to seeing a bit more of Abu Dhabi, in particular to meet some of the young sailors there and to try out one of the traditional dhow boats that Adil Khalid, our Emirati crew member, has told me so much about.”

 

Like most Volvo Ocean Race competitors, Chuny says the hardest part about racing around the world would be spending time apart his family, wife Lola and their children, Lola (11), Carlos (9) and Pepa (7).

 

“I’ll miss my family of course,” he said. “But I don’t like to be distracted by thoughts of home. In a race like this you have to concentrate 100 per cent so I don’t send very many emails back home. I think this comes from when I first did this race and there was no email. I think maybe we could send a fax, but that was all.”

 

Bermúdez, along with British double Olympic silver medallist Walker and the rest of the ADOR crew, Justin ‘Irish’ Slattery (Ireland), Phil ‘Wendy’ Harmer (Australia), Simon ‘SiFi’ Fisher (Britain), Luke ‘Parko’ Parkinson (Australia), Andrew ‘Animal’ McLean (New Zealand) and Adil Khalid (United Arab Emirates), will be based in Cascais for the next two and a half months as they train and prepare their brand new Volvo Ocean 65 yacht ‘Azzam’ for Abu Dhabi’s second consecutive Volvo Ocean Race tilt.

 

Follow news of the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team and hear the latest on the Abu Dhabi stopover for the 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race by following on Facebook – www.facebook.com/AbuDhabiOceanRacing, on Twitter – @ADORlog, online at www.volvooceanraceabudhabi.com, and on YouTube – youtube.com/AbuDhabiOceanRacing

 

-ENDS-

 

ABOUT ABU DHABI TOURISM & CULTURE AUTHORITY

Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority conserves and promotes the heritage and culture of Abu Dhabi emirate and leverages them in the development of a world-class, sustainable destination of distinction which enriches the lives of visitors and residents alike. The authority manages the emirate’s tourism sector and markets the destination internationally through a wide range of activities aimed at attracting visitors and investment. Its policies, plans and programmes relate to the preservation of heritage and culture, including protecting archaeological and historical sites and to developing museums, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. The authority supports intellectual and artistic activities and cultural events to nurture a rich cultural environment and honour the emirate’s heritage. A key authority role is to create synergy in the destination’s development through close co-ordination with its wide-ranging stakeholder base.

 

Abu Dhabi has been named ‘World’s Leading Sports Destination’ in the 2013 World Travel Awards.

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Photo gallery: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam first sail

Posted on 11 March 2014 by Valencia Sailing

Spectacular photos by Ian Roman of Azzam’s first sail on Sunday. The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing VO65 is now heading to Portugal and is expected to reach Cascais in four days:

First sail of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam. Southampton, 9 March 2014. Photo copyright Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

First sail of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam. Southampton, 9 March 2014. Photo copyright Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

First sail of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam. Southampton, 9 March 2014. Photo copyright Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

First sail of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam. Southampton, 9 March 2014. Photo copyright Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

First sail of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam. Southampton, 9 March 2014. Photo copyright Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

First sail of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam. Southampton, 9 March 2014. Photo copyright Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

First sail of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam. Southampton, 9 March 2014. Photo copyright Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

First sail of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam. Southampton, 9 March 2014. Photo copyright Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

First sail of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam. Southampton, 9 March 2014. Photo copyright Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

First sail of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam. Southampton, 9 March 2014. Photo copyright Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

First sail of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam. Southampton, 9 March 2014. Photo copyright Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

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Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam takes first sail

Posted on 10 March 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing] Azzam, the new 65-foot carbon racing yacht in which Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) will contest the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15, has sailed for the first time with the crew, led by British double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker, conducting sea trials along the English south coast.

The Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi)-backed Volvo Ocean 65, named for the Arabic meaning determination, was launched at the Williams Shipping facility in Southampton Docks after being transferred by barge from builders Green Marine in Hythe, UK.

Before sailing, Azzam underwent a mandatory safety test on the complex hydraulic system which controls her 4.7 metre long canting keel. The test required Azzam to be hauled over by her mast to an angle of around 45 degrees before the hydraulic pumps lifted the keel and its 3,500 kg lead bulb completely clear of the water.

Abu Dhabi’s Azzam VO65 takes her maiden sail. Southampton, 9 March 2014. Photo copyright Ian Roman

The ADOR crew strained to wind the winches and to pull Azzam on to her side while listening carefully for any untoward noises.

“She’s as strong as she is beautiful; those are gargantuan loads and she shrugged them off with ease,” said Skipper Walker.

Having passed the pull down test, Azzam was put through a day of careful sail testing in the confines of the Solent Straits before the experienced international crew were satisfied enough to embark on two days of more rigorous sailing in open water.

Azzam is one of seven identical Volvo Ocean 65 yachts being built for the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 and the fourth to take to the water ahead of the race start on October 4 in Alicante, Spain.

The ADOR sailors were unanimous in their praise of the yacht they’re relying on to get them quickly and safely around the 39,000 mile course which includes a stopover in Abu Dhabi over the 2014/15 Christmas and New Year festive season.

Abu Dhabi navigator Simon ‘SiFi’ Fisher, who spent much of the first day’s sailing studying Azzam’s performance data, said he was impressed by the initial numbers.

“We were doing over 20 knots in around 15 knots of breeze today; and that’s without really trying too hard. It’s great to get the first sailing time under our belts and it gives me a chance to start gathering valuable data from the boat. Every time we go sailing from now until the start of the race we will be monitoring, measuring and analysing every little detail about how the boat performs. For now though, we’re off to a great start.”

Having raced a wide variety of high performance boats around the world, including four Volvo Ocean Races, bowman Justin ‘Irish’ Slattery knows more than most what an ocean thoroughbred should feel like.

“On first impressions I would say this new design is quite a bit tippier than the Volvo Open 70s which contested the last race and we will have to learn new ways of sailing to get the best out of Azzam by race time,” said Slattery.

Abu Dhabi’s Azzam VO65 takes her maiden sail. Southampton, 9 March 2014. Photo copyright Ian Roman

“It was a lot of fun to get out on the water for the first time with the new Abu Dhabi crew on the new Azzam. It’s been a very productive few days. We have tried out all the sails and tested all the systems. Now, over the next few months, we have to learn how to sail her fast.”

Azzam’s first sail saw Emirati Olympian under-30 sailor Adil Khalid return to action after a recuperation period with an injured hand. Khalid, who raced around the world with ADOR in the last race, didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things and was soon at the heart of the on board action.

“It’s great to be back with the team,” Khalid declared with one of his broad trademark smiles. “The new Azzam looks as good as she feels to sail. I think we are well organised and ready to take on the challenge of the Volvo Ocean Race again, this time for victory.”

With Azzam now fully under his command, Skipper Ian Walker is keen to move the ADOR campaign into the next phase and has put his crew on standby to sail the just over 1000 miles to the team’s training base in Cascais near Lisbon, Portugal.

“The sailing we’ve done this week has given us a great deal of faith in our new Azzam,” Walker said. “It’s fantastic to finally have her to ourselves and we can’t wait for a bit of open water sailing.”

Far from a relaxed delivery trip, Walker says the passage to Portugal will be the first opportunity for the crew to familiarise themselves with the idiosyncrasies of the Volvo Ocean 65.

“It’s a three or four day run and it will be a good shakedown sail to give us all an early chance to get to know the boat better and start to work out how to sail this new design at optimum performance.

“Every minute we spend on the boat from now on is an opportunity to learn how to sail her faster when the race comes around,” Walker said.

Abu Dhabi’s Azzam VO65 takes her maiden sail. Southampton, 9 March 2014. Photo copyright Ian Roman

Abu Dhabi’s Azzam VO65 takes her maiden sail. Southampton, 9 March 2014. Photo copyright Ian Roman

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Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s VO65 Azzam touches the water

Posted on 06 March 2014 by Valencia Sailing

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s VO65 Azzam touches the water

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Slattery, Fisher, McLean and Harmer join the crew of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

Posted on 11 February 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing] Ireland’s Justin Slattery, Australia’s Phil Harmer, Britain’s Simon Fisher and New Zealand’s Andrew McLean have joined Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s crew for the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15.

Joining Ian Walker’s crew this Monday are four sailors with a combined total of 12 Volvo Ocean Race campaigns between them.

They join Emirati crewman Adil Khalid, Australian under-23 recruit Luke Parkinson and British onboard reporter Tom Bushell.

All four have previously raced with Walker, Abu Dhabi’s double Olympic silver medalist skipper.

ADOR performance manager Neal McDonald was instrumental in the selection process. “I’m confident we have the right people. It’s a solid mix without any big egos. This is an international lineup, but the common factor is that they are all very much focused on winning.”

For bowman Slattery, this will be his third lap of the world with Walker and his second Volvo Ocean Race as an Abu Dhabi crew member. Likewise navigator Fisher will be racing for Abu Dhabi for the second time after competing as a helmsman and sail trimmer in the last race.

McLean and Harmer previously raced around the world with Walker two editions ago. In the 2011-12 race Harmer was part of the winning Groupama crew and McLean finished second on CAMPER – this time both plan to use their experience to help Abu Dhabi’s quest for a Volvo Ocean Race victory.

“Phil, Andrew, Simon and Justin each bring unique skills and invaluable experience to the team and I couldn’t be happier to have them aboard,” said Walker. “We all enjoy sailing together and that can an important factor in the pressure cooker environment of a nine-month yacht race around the world.”

The final member of the nine-man crew list will be announced in the coming weeks. After visiting the Emirati capital this week, next on ADOR’s agenda are safety tests and sea trials aboard their new Volvo Ocean 65.

The one-design boat will hit the water in Southern England in the next weeks. Trials should be completed by the beginning of March when the team will sail to its training base near Lisbon, Portugal.

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Seven teams in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race?

Posted on 02 October 2013 by Valencia Sailing

Despite the financial crisis that has crippled the sponsorship market in the sport of sailing, it appears that Knut Frostad, CEO of Volvo Ocean Race, will manage to pull this off and have at least seven boats on the starting line in Alicante a year from now. In addition to Team SCA and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, we should expect teams from the Netherlands, Spain, New Zealand, Great Britain and China. Although at times we have been critical of Frostad, the measures taken last year were certainly life-saving. Bringing costs down was the only way to ensure that the race wouldn’t disappear or that there wouldn’t be just two or three entries.

The organizers of the 35th America’s Cup should probably borrow a page or two from Frostad’s book if they are sincere in their talk about multiple challengers. With an America’s Cup campaign cost of at least US$ 100 million, there is no way whatsoever that any challenger that doesn’t have the initial backing of a billionaire will make it to the Louis Vuitton Cup. Even the almighty Team New Zealand, the world’s only exception to that rule, will need government funding to kick start its campaign. However, Larry Ellison might not even want multiple challengers but just a handful of billionaires that play with him!

Back to the Volvo Ocean Race now and the latest update on what our sources deem to be the most possible lineup in Alicante:

Team SCA
The all-female crew entry, backed by Swedish forest-product multinational SCA, is undoubtedly, the most advanced and visible of all the official and potential entries. Not only are they fully-funded, they have been training with a VOR70 for the last few months, they have hired most of their crew, they have established a training base in Puerto Calero and, most importantly, two days ago they were officially handed their racing VO65 yacht.

The pink and white VO65, the first one of the eight units scheduled to be built, successfully went through the pull-down test a week ago and then went for her maiden sail three days later. The Swedish VO65 will most probably head to Lanzarote in the following days where she will spend the next months for an intensive winter-training period.

First sail of Team SCA’s brand new VO65. Southampton, 26 September 2013. Photo copyright Rick Tomlinson / Team SCA

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
The team skippered by Ian Walker and funded by the wealthy emirate of Abu Dhabi is the second official entry in next year’s race. Although not advanced as Team SCA in their planning, Abu Dhabi have been very active in the last few months, training and racing on their VOR70 Azzam. They should be receiving their brand new VO65 in the next weeks and there is no doubt further official announcements will follow as well. With such a strong financial backer, there isn’t much to worry about.

Dutch Team
This is probably one of the strongest and most plausible efforts, led by Team Heiner sailing events organization together with Dutch VOR veterans Gerd-Jan Poortman and Bouwe Bekking. They are aiming at a reasonable budget of 16 million euros and when we bumped into Bekking at the Maxi Yacht Worlds in Porto Cervo, he sounded very enthusiastic about the prospects and hinted that it wouldn’t be long before we hear an official confirmation.

Team New Zealand
Team New Zealand was rumored to enter the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, regardless of the outcome of the 34th America’s Cup. It is only logical that their defeat in San Francisco makes that scenario even more realistic. We understand that Camper, the Spanish shoe manufacturer, will be again with the Kiwis but it’s not sure whether they will back the team to the extent they did in 2011-12. There is talk of a “big” Russian sponsor as well but we haven’t been able to gather any credible and reliable information on that. We wouldn’t be surprised though if it were Gazprom…

Spain / Pedro Campos
Pedro Campos is said to be near a final deal that will allow him to enter the Volvo Ocean Race for the fourth time. It seems that Spanish insurance group MAPFRE will be the main sponsor and the 15-million euro target will be achieved with the addition of three-four secondary commercial partners.

Nevertheless, Campos, in a recent article in Spain’s El Pais newspaper was painting a much bleaker picture. According to his comments, “we are fighting, struggling to move ahead. It’s hard due to the crisis and the general business situation. It is certainly the most difficult year to find financial backing. Sailing has lost many sponsors and the debacle of Madrid 2020 has been another stick in the wheels of project financing.”

Are Campos’ comments sincere or just a bargaining tool in order to force Knut Frostad and the Volvo Ocean Race organization to lower the price of the VO65′s? We will know in the next few weeks.

Great Britain
Our sources are sure that there will be a British team in this edition of the round-the-world race, even if they are short on details. The official announcement of the entry from the United Kingdom shouldn’t take long as it seems it’s a “done deal”. We will just have to wait.

China
With China now having become the most important market for every major multinational, the fact the Volvo group is keen to have a local entry shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially considering the fact Volvo Cars is Chinese-owned. As a result, it seems there will be a Chinese boat that will cross the starting line in Alicante, a year from now. However, unlike all previous editions, this is destined to be a “real” Chinese entry, funded by Zhejiang Geely Holding, the Chinese parent of the Volvo Cars group.

Although it will be skippered by a well-known European sailor, Chinese sailors will not be simple figureheads. According to our sources, the aim is to have onboard as many locals as possible and portray an image of a proper Chinese team. Our sources indicate that Mark Turner and OC Sport will manage the team. However, when we contacted Turner he denied having any involvement, stating that they “didn’t have any Volvo Ocean Race project in place today.”

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IWC Schaffhausen shores up 2014–15 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing sponsorship

Posted on 17 September 2013 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority] Swiss luxury watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen has announced its agreement with Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) to become the first major sponsor of its new-look Volvo Ocean Race 2014–15 team, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing – which returns to the gruelling round-the-world sailing odyssey for a second shot at glory.

The partnership, which also sees IWC Schaffhausen reignite its Official Timekeeper status for the forthcoming Volvo Ocean Race, came at the newly opened IWC boutique at The Galleria at Sowwah Square on Al Maryah Island – Abu Dhabi’s largest high-end shopping destination.

The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing partnership, which continues from the 2011–12 edition when the team became the first Arab-flagged entry in the race, opens up considerable marketing and engagement opportunities globally as the race calls at 10 cities across four continents, starting in Alicante, Spain, in October next year.

“Abu Dhabi and IWC Schaffhausen have forged a deep-rooted spirit based on the fundamentals of tradition, a desire for perfection and winning mentality. We saw these core values come to the fore during the last campaign, and they are the building blocks of our future cooperation that will see both brands ride high on another wave of success across the globe,” said Faisal Al Sheikh, Director – Events Bureau, TCA Abu Dhabi, which is also behind the UAE capital hosting the third stopover of the 2014-15 race over Christmas and New Year.

IWC returns as sponsor of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / www.vsail.info

IWC and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing made a number of headline-grabbing initiatives in the last race, including hosting two of the world’s most pre-eminent footballers of their generations: Luís Figo and Zinédine Zidane, on board the team’s state-of-the-art yacht, Azzam (determination).

Karoline Huber, Regional Brand Director of IWC Middle East & India, said that fans can expect much more from the next campaign in Abu Dhabi.

“The Volvo Ocean Race is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular round-the-world sailing events. We are proud to be part of this exceptional test of sailing prowess, which attracts the very best teams on the planet,” said Huber.

“Through Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing we continue to grow the synergies between our two brands: precision, technology, engineering and innovation. With our unabated commitment to the emirate, the launch of our new boutique at The Galleria and plans for the UAE capital’s hosting of next year’s race stopover, we fully expect to make big waves across the region and the world together.”

Abu Dhabi city will host the third 2014–15 Volvo Ocean Race stopover from mid-December 2014 until 3 January 2015.

The UAE capital will welcome the fleet from Cape Town (South Africa). The Abu Dhabi Etihad Airways In-Port Race, which was won by home favourites Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in the last edition, will take place on 2 January 2015, with the fleet departing for Sanya (China) the following day.

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