Emirati sailor Adil Khalid has his global goal in Volvo Ocean Race

Veteran McDonald also joins skipper Walker’s Azzam team for round-the-world title tilt, writes Osman Samiuddin.

Emirati Adil Khalid knows what is expected of him and what to expect on the sometimes stormy waters of the Volvo Ocean Race.
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Back in January 2011, Adil Khalid had to beat off competition from more than 120 Emiratis for a place on Azzam, the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing yacht that was going to be the first entry from the Arab world in the round-the-world 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race (VOR).

For the 2014/15 race, however, there was no need for a talent hunt; Azzam will again take to the waters under the skipper Ian Walker and the team announced on Monday that they had re-signed Khalid, 24, as a crew member.

Walker said last week that there would be Emiratis in a smaller, eight-man crew this year and, as expected, Butti Al Muhairi also returns as a member of the shore team and official stand-by for Khalid.

Khalid, an Olympic sailor, became the first Arab sailor to take part in the VOR, but more will be expected of him this year.

"Adil's been around the world now, so he's got that experience, he's somebody we can trust," Walker said.

"I think the challenge for Adil now is to really step up and be a senior member of the team.

"I'm delighted he's come back to the team.

"Hopefully, we'll also eventually have some other Emiratis pushing and challenging him for the actual spot on the race team, but Adil has a big head start, having already done 30-40,000 miles sailing around the world."

Khalid is already in the UK, marking his return by taking part in the Cowes Week's Big Boat Races, beginning on Tuesday, before sailing in the defence of Azzam's Fastnet Race title, beginning on Sunday. "Taking part in my first VOR campaign was a dream and now with a second chance at it, I want to make winning the reality," he said.

"We are already so much further ahead in this campaign than before and I feel that I have learnt so much, yet have much more to prove. For us, winning the race is the only goal."

The other big announcement was the recruitment of a veritable legend of the oceans, Neal McDonald, a six-time VOR participant who sailed his last leg in the last race for Team Telefonica.

McDonald has been pulled in to oversee technical programmes, training camps and crew development. The team hopes his vast experience will help in a sustained pursuit for victory.

"Neal is probably the sailor more than any I look up to," Walker said. "He's the first name you put on any crew list, a very smart guy, a naval architect who's done six races round the world. He'll help us analyse everything we are doing and be somebody to stand alongside me and take some of the load off me."

McDonald stressed that although he had given up a sailing role, the potential of this new position with Abu Dhabi Racing convinced him to join.

"I had never given up on the possibility of getting involved in a more behind-the-scenes role," he said. "When Ian started talking to me, I was excited to hear more as I see Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing having a real chance of winning this race."

Abu Dhabi Racing hope to put together their full crew in the first three months of 2014.

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