Ian Walker will skipper the Team Abu Dhabi boat in next year's Volvo Ocean Race.
Ian Walker will skipper the Team Abu Dhabi boat in next year's Volvo Ocean Race.

Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker wants Emirati in crew

Skipper Ian Walker has pledged to recruit as much local talent as possible for Team Abu Dhabi's entry in the Volvo Ocean Race, but said he would not select a "token" Emirati for his crew. Walker said there are so many unknown hazards awaiting the crews who embark on the gruelling round-the-world race that it would be irresponsible to employ a yachtsman who was not up to the task.

"Our intention is to get one Emirati sailor on board and have other local representation in the on-shore team," he said. "But it really depends on the quality of the applicants and what skills they can make available to the team. We want to have as much local involvement as we can but only if those candidates are suitable." Walker is well aware of the hazards of the race. He was captain of the yacht Green Dragon, an Irish entry under Chinese sponsorship, in the 2008/09 competition.

Video: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing break Fastnet record

The team covered the 608-nautical mile sprint from Cowes to Plymouth,via the Fastnet Rock off the southern tip of Ireland, in the record time of 1 day 18hrs 39mins.

"This is a very dangerous race and my primary role as skipper of the boat is to ensure the safety of the crew," he said. "You can't take people into the Southern Ocean unless they can look after themselves. "We can't afford to have anybody on board who is going to be a liability to the crew. There is a certain minimum standard required mental, physical and technical." Walker said his comments were not intended to dissuade local sailors from seeking a place in Team Abu Dhabi's first attempt in claim the round-the-world race.

"It is not as if the race is coming up on us next week. We have a fair amount of time to train people up for the various roles," he said. "Our aim is to find the right material for our on-shore crew as well as those who will be on the boat. I'm fairly confident we won't have a problem recruiting a suitable Emirati. "The team is going to be multi-dimensional. We are going to need people to help us with all kinds of things. Being in Abu Dhabi throughout the winter will enable us to tap into whatever local resources are available."

Walker will take up residence in Abu Dhabi at the end of September in preparation for the nine-month adventure that begins in October next year. Each team in the race are allowed 10 crew members and an extra "media" member on board whose task is to file daily bulletins. Three of the 10 sailors must be aged under 30. "It's funny. If you talk about any other sport most people are washed up by the time they are 30," Walker said. "But in sailing we think they are really young.

"We have to find three of them, but my email account is full of applications at the moment so I'm sure we'll be able to meet that age stipulation comfortably. I'm very confident that we'll be able to recruit some very good people." Walker believes his experience of captaining Green Dragon to fifth place in the last Volvo race will be invaluable to the Abu Dhabi cause. "I think this new team will be far better prepared technically," he said. "We have more training time and more investment in the boat than last time. And having done all this once before can only help." wjohnson@thenational.ae


Director: Neill Blomkamp

Stars: David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, Archie Madekwe, Darren Barnet

Rating: 3/5

School counsellors on mental well-being

Schools counsellors in Abu Dhabi have put a number of provisions in place to help support pupils returning to the classroom next week.

Many children will resume in-person lessons for the first time in 10 months and parents previously raised concerns about the long-term effects of distance learning.

Schools leaders and counsellors said extra support will be offered to anyone that needs it. Additionally, heads of years will be on hand to offer advice or coping mechanisms to ease any concerns.

“Anxiety this time round has really spiralled, more so than from the first lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic,” said Priya Mitchell, counsellor at The British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi.

“Some have got used to being at home don’t want to go back, while others are desperate to get back.

“We have seen an increase in depressive symptoms, especially with older pupils, and self-harm is starting younger.

“It is worrying and has taught us how important it is that we prioritise mental well-being.”

Ms Mitchell said she was liaising more with heads of year so they can support and offer advice to pupils if the demand is there.

The school will also carry out mental well-being checks so they can pick up on any behavioural patterns and put interventions in place to help pupils.

At Raha International School, the well-being team has provided parents with assessment surveys to see how they can support students at home to transition back to school.

“They have created a Well-being Resource Bank that parents have access to on information on various domains of mental health for students and families,” a team member said.

“Our pastoral team have been working with students to help ease the transition and reduce anxiety that [pupils] may experience after some have been nearly a year off campus.

"Special secondary tutorial classes have also focused on preparing students for their return; going over new guidelines, expectations and daily schedules.”

UAE jiu-jitsu squad

Men: Hamad Nawad and Khalid Al Balushi (56kg), Omar Al Fadhli and Saeed Al Mazroui (62kg), Taleb Al Kirbi and Humaid Al Kaabi (69kg), Mohammed Al Qubaisi and Saud Al Hammadi (70kg), Khalfan Belhol and Mohammad Haitham Radhi (85kg), Faisal Al Ketbi and Zayed Al Kaabi (94kg)

Women: Wadima Al Yafei and Mahra Al Hanaei (49kg), Bashayer Al Matrooshi and Hessa Al Shamsi (62kg)

Empires of the Steppes: A History of the Nomadic Tribes Who Shaped Civilization

Author: Kenneth W Harl
Hanover Square Press

Company profile

Name: Infinite8

Based: Dubai

Launch year: 2017

Number of employees: 90

Sector: Online gaming industry

Funding: $1.2m from a UAE angel investor

The biog

Favourite colour: Brown

Favourite Movie: Resident Evil

Hobbies: Painting, Cooking, Imitating Voices

Favourite food: Pizza

Trivia: Was the voice of three characters in the Emirati animation, Shaabiyat Al Cartoon

The specs: 2017 Maserati Quattroporte

Price, base / as tested Dh389,000 / Dh559,000

Engine 3.0L twin-turbo V8

Transmission Eight-speed automatic

Power 530hp @ 6,800rpm

Torque 650Nm @ 2,000 rpm

Fuel economy, combined 10.7L / 100km


Keep up with all the Middle East and North Africa athletes at the 2024 Paris Olympics

      By signing up, I agree to The National's privacy policy