Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will be back in the water in their Azzam Volvo 70 race yacht this summer as they begin early preparations for the 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race (VOR).
The team made history as the first Arabian contender in the nine-month, round-the-world, 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race, lead by skipper Ian Walker, a British double Olympic medallist.
Walker will head the crew again as Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing takes part in three races at the famous Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight off England's south coast, which runs from August 3 to 10.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will then defend its title in the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race (August 11-13), which it won in record time in 2011.
"It is exciting to be getting Azzam ready to sail again. You become quite attached to a yacht when you spend so much time sailing it around the world," said Walker, a two-time VOR veteran.
"Cowes Week has always been one of my favourite regattas since I was a kid. It will be a bit scary sailing such a big, fast boat in the confines of The Solent [the straight between the isle and mainland England] but I think the big boat races will be spectacular."
The team will be based in the town of Gosport over two weeks where they will be training ahead of the races. It is also a chance to test key under-30 crew members in race conditions.
"We will be looking at a few new crew members for the future of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. A quarter of the crew must be under 30 for the next race, so their appointment will be key to our success," Walker said.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is due to announce its full 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race crew line-up early next year, when it will also receive its new one-design Volvo 65 race yacht. At least one UAE national will be included in the reduced eight-man crew line-up, with more Emiratis involved on the shore team.
"Having started our first Volvo Ocean Race campaign at Cowes in 2011, it is fitting that we have gone full circle to start our next title push here again," said Faisal Al Sheikh, events manager with Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, which owns the team.
Abu Dhabi will be the third stop in the 14/15 race, incorporating a New Year 2015 concert.
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