ABU DHABI // For the next three weeks the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) will be assessing Emirati applicants looking to join the Volvo Ocean Race, one of the world's toughest sailing challenges. And one champion is already considering it, against the advice of his coach. "Why not? I am up to trying any challenge," said Adil Khalid, 22. Mr Khalid is the first UAE sailor to qualify for the Olympics, travelling to Beijing in 2008, and is training for November's 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.
Speaking from a training camp in Italy, Mr Khalid said he is excited about this latest announcement. "It is one of the toughest sailing races out there, so I would love the opportunity to join it representing my country," he said. "Sailing is my life, and with every challenge you learn something new." ADTA launched its nationwide search yesterday for an Emirati sailor to join the 11-member Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team and fly the flag in "the Everest of Sailing".
The round-the-world, 39,000-nautical-mile race is to start in Alicante, Spain on October 29, 2011 and end Galway, Ireland the following summer. Abu Dhabi will be the first Middle East stopover in the event's 37-year history. "We are searching for a compatriot with steely determination, enduring physicality, strength of mind, quick intelligence and dynamic personality to be part of our multinational crew who will aim to win honours for the emirate," said the ADTA chairman, Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, in a press release.
"Whoever is selected will take on the considerable responsibility of working towards, and sharing, the aspirations of their homeland," Sheikh Sultan said. Applicants 30 or younger and proficient in English can apply at www.abudhabioceanracing.ae. Candidates must be willing to commit full-time to the project, which runs from January 2011 to August 2012. The deadline for applications is October 24.
The plan is to have one Emirati as part of the crew and a minimum of two on the support team. "Living up to our aim will demand a level of courage displayed by our forefathers as they put themselves at the mercy of the ocean during the testing times when our economy depended on deep-sea sailing and pearling skills," Sheikh Sultan said. The best 12 candidates will undergo fitness and endurance tests before a winner is chosen, with the runners-up being offered positions with the team's shore crew that encompass the maintenance, development and reliability of the race yacht.
"The next four months will be fascinating for all involved. Applicants will need to demonstrate decisive physical and mental attributes and we need to know that they can make the grade when the going gets really tough. Hopefully the series of tests and trials we have planned will clearly identify the best, the strongest and those that will fit seamlessly into the team," said Ian Walker, the skipper for the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team.
Whatever Mr. Khalid's aspirations may be, the UAE Olympic sailor's coach, Omar Bazara, hopes to dissuade him for the sake of "concentration." "He is already training for the Olympics and major games, he needs to focus and not overexert himself," said Mr Bazara, who has been a coach at the Emirates Sailing School for over a decade. Mr Bazara has supervised more than 2,000 students and plans to put forward several of them as candidates for the ADTA competition.
"I don't have any numbers yet, but there are many talented and determined young sailors here, but they haven't found the support they needed in order to go full time into this sport," he said. "Let's hope this is the beginning of a foundation for a future of a committed sailing sport, where the needs of the athletes are all covered and they can live on being just sailors."