Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Emirati sailing stars, Adil Khalid and Butti Al Muhairi, who will represent the emirate in the gruelling, 39,000 nautical mile Volvo Ocean Race beginning in Spain this October, have embarked on a testing, four-phase multi-country training programme to get them into top shape for the ultimate round-the-world sailing race.
Emirati star Adil Khalid will spend the next two months split between the UK, Abu Dhabi and the Far East
Having beaten off more than 120 UAE nationals to earn their places in the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA)-backed outfit, 22-year-old Adil, who is part of the 11-strong sailing team, and 26-year-old Butti, who earned a place in the shore team, will spend the next two months split between the UK, Abu Dhabi and the Far East, learning a wealth of skill-sets, ranging from sea survival and boat knowledge though to advanced seamanship and strength training.
The programme, which combines instructor training and race experience, will be critical in the progression of the history-making duo, as they set to become the first UAE nationals to compete in this ‘Everest of Sailing’.
'With the hopes of a nation on their shoulders, preparing these two brave sailors with all the skills they need to survive the harsh and demanding conditions they will encounter is paramount. The skills learned over the next few months will give them a far greater understanding and appreciation of the mountainous challenge ahead of them and allow them to fit seamlessly into the team as it pushes for race honours,' said HE Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General, ADTA – which lead-manages the team.
The first phase training programme, has seen the Emirati duo fly into the Isle of Wight, England, to join the High Performance Department of the UK Sailing Academy – one of the world’s premier teaching facilities.
At the Academy, Adil and Butti have undergone a series of certified courses and personal development seminars to learn goal setting, motivation and working in a high-performance team.
Adil, who represented the UAE in the 2008 Olympic Games, and Butti, an experienced sailor of both traditional dhows and Laser-class yachts, are returning to the UAE capital for two-weeks of corporate sailing on the team’s state-of-the-art Volvo Open 70 training yacht, which broke the world 24-hour speed record in the 2005/06 Volvo Ocean Race. This is aimed at developing their all-round skills and sponsor interaction.
From 18-25th April, the Emiratis will re-join Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s skipper and double Olympic medallist, Ian Walker of Great Britain, in Hong Kong for the 448 mile San Fernando Race to the Philippines on board a TP52 racing yacht. Their participation is designed to test the two under-30s' practical skills under race conditions, and their ability to manage themselves with limited sleep.
The final phase, running 11-30th May, sees Adil and Butti return to the UK Sailing Academy for offshore, navigational and race training skill workshops. They will join a residential course that is predominantly water-based coupled with the theory of navigation, preparation and safety and compete in a number of off-shore races in the English Channel.
'Already we have been pushed outside our comfort zones and it has been really intense,' said Adil, who also competed in the 2010 Asian Games, which took place in Guangzhou, China last November. 'We have been training with sailors from all over and it has been great learning from others too. We know the huge task ahead of us and how far we have to go to be ready for it. I have been in the Olympics but this is completely different. Not being prepared could be life threatening out in the ocean.'
And Butti, who will act as a stand-in for Adil should he pick up an injury in the nine-month race, was also keen to make the most of the opportunity.
'This is an amazing opportunity and one I fully intend to make the most of. We have met so many interesting people already and have learned a lot in such a short time. I’m particularly looking forward to the TP52 race as it will be the first time I have competitively raced at that level, and it is a good dry run of part of the Volvo Ocean Race course we will navigate next year.'
ADTA is currently in the final stages of assembling its world-beating crew to sail the new Volvo Open 70, which has been designed by the USA’s Farr Yacht Design and is being built by Persico S.p.A in Northern Italy. Adil and Butti will meet up with the crew after their training to launch the new yacht in June.
In addition to Adil and Butti, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has already signed up 2008/2009 Volvo Ocean Race winning navigator, Jules Salter from the UK; Volvo Ocean Race 2005/06 winner, Justin Slattery of Ireland; New Zealand’s Craig Satterthwaite, a 2007 America’s Cup winner; Australia’s Wade Morgan, the team’s newest under-30s member; and Volvo Ocean Race and America’s Cup veteran, Simon Fisher from the UK.
In addition to boasting one of the most competitive crews lined-up for the Volvo Ocean Race 2011/12, Abu Dhabi is also fully committed to its New Year 2012 hosting of the Volvo Ocean Race prior to the yachting fleet embarking on its third leg to Sanya, China. The emirate will be the first Middle East stopover in the event’s 37-year history.
ADTA, which was behind the emirate's successful bid to become a 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race home port and the event’s first Official Destination Partner, believes the Abu Dhabi stop-over will be a race highlight giving visitors a unique opportunity to connect with its centuries-old maritime heritage. It is also looking to its race involvement to position the emirate, which boasts a 400 kilometre coastline and over 200 natural islands, as a preferred winter sailing destination.
Abu Dhabi's Butti Al Muhairi will learn sea survival and boat knowledge though to advanced seamanship and strength training