It seems like yesterday we were wishing the crew of the Azzam ‘bon voyage’ as they left Alicante, Spain to begin the 2011/2012 Volvo Ocean Race. For Skipper Ian Walker and his crew, the almost nine months at sea has been filled with incredible experiences – many of which we have shared with you here.
Last week you read about life on board Azzam just one aspect of the physical and emotional challenges team Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing faced every day. As the boat left the French coastal city of Lorient last week, she embarked on the ninth and final leg of this year’s VOR… and her arrival this week into Galway, Ireland.
The Azzam rounding a lighthouse en route to Galway
For one person on board Azzam the Irish coast is familiar territory – Adil Khalid, the VOR’s first Gulf participant, used Galway as his training ground before the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.
Adil Khalid on board Azzam during Leg 9
“The Irish are always so warm, hospitable and welcoming; in many ways it reminds me of Abu Dhabi. I have very fond memories of Galway…”, Khalid shared. Given the relatively short course length, 485 nautical miles, Khalid and his team did not have long to go before seeing the shores of the Emerald Isle.
Highlights of Leg 9’s start
However, as with each leg in the race this one is still fraught with challenges from both the surrounding terrain and uncertain weather patterns in the area. Keeping these potential adversities in mind, team ADOR was angling for a position on the podium for their performance in the leg, a goal Khalid acknowledged: “…getting away from the fleet in the early stages will be key to our podium chances.”
Azzam braving stormy conditions from Lorient to Galway
As he finishes up his first VOR Khalid also has his eyes on another podium, hoping for a wildcard berth to compete in this summer’s London Olympic Games. Relaying what is a universal truth for all competitive athletes, Khalid relayed: “the Olympics are the ultimate dream for anyone participating in sport.”
But first things first, Khalid and his teammates will continue to enjoy a large celebration in Galway, hosted und the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, the official sponsor of Azzam and her crew. It will be a fitting finish to the round-the-world 39,000 mile race and acknowledgment of all thhKey have accomplished. For Adil Khalid the race has provided a new growth and maturity: “I really feel like an old soul now.”
Khalid and the rest of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing celebrate in Galway
We happily greet Azzam and her tireless crew in Galway and congratulating them on a race well sailed.