UAE sailing fans applaud victorious Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team

Jubilant Emiratis and sailing fans across the country expressed their joy and pride as Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing won the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race on Thursday.
Emirati crew member Adil Khalid, left, and skipper Ian Walker celebrate victory in Lorient, France. Courtesy Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / Getty Images
Emirati crew member Adil Khalid, left, and skipper Ian Walker celebrate victory in Lorient, France. Courtesy Ian Roman / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / Getty Images

ABU DHABI // Jubilant Emiratis and sailing fans across the country expressed their joy and pride as Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing won the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race on Thursday.

“In the sailing world we compare this to winning the Formula One. It’s the toughest sailing competition in the world and the UAE has won it,” said Butti Al Mehairi, a professional sailor in the UAE.

“It’s a big day for Abu Dhabi. What the guys did, Adel Khalid and the skipper Ian Walker, is huge and a great accomplishment. We’re all very proud of them,” Mr Al Mehairi said.

Thursday was a landmark day in Abu Dhabi’s sporting history when Azzam, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s entry, secured the round-the-world win.

“It is really a great moment. Actually, it is a great feeling for the whole of the UAE, the whole of Abu Dhabi and not just me,” said Adil Khalid, the Emirati crew member on Azzam.

Englishman Walker, skipper of Azzam, said: “I would hope there is a big impact in the UAE. I can’t wait to get out there.

“I would love to jump on a plane to Abu Dhabi right now, with the trophy, and share it with people who have been following the team.”

“The Volvo Ocean Race is rightly regarded as the Everest of sailing, the pinnacle of offshore sailing challenges, and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has made it to the top,” said Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon, chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.

“From the start of the race in Alicante, it has been an incredible competition in the face of some of the most challenging and dangerous conditions our planet has to offer. I am tremendously proud of our skipper Ian Walker, our Emirati sailor Adil Khalid and all of Azzam’s crew for securing first place in the 2014-2015 edition of the race,” he said.

“They have represented our emirate with bravery, distinction, and skill. I know the people of Abu Dhabi, and the many, many Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing fans around the world will share with me in my jubilation and appreciation,” Sheikh Sultan said.

He said he hoped the victory in offshore sailing’s most renowned competition would inspire a new generation of sailors.

More on the Volvo Ocean Race:

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing seal victory in 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race with one leg to go

Driven and relentless, Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker reaches the pinnacle of his profession

Emirati sailor Adil Khalid completes remarkable journey with Volvo Ocean Race triumph

Learning from past lessons, Ian Walker and Azzam crew made a point of consistent excellence

Faisal Saeed, 32, an Emirati who works in hospitality, said the win would enhance Abu Dhabi’s image internationally.

“Volvo Ocean Race is an international race and it is sponsored by the capital. It brings joy to my heart, because this is an achievement for us. This will also, surely, market Abu Dhabi’s name, and the Volvo Ocean Race is viewed from all over the world. We did have exposure before, but now that they won that is an accomplishment that follows the previous ones,” he said.

“To the people of Abu Dhabi, and maybe those in Dubai or living on the coast, it will relate to them because they also used to reside by the sea and have participated in traditional dhow races. On a modern scale and a larger level this will be a bigger exposure and to win this is truly an achievement,” Mr Saeed said.

nalremaithi@thenational.ae

aalkhoori@thenational.ae

Published: June 11, 2015 04:00 AM

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