Emirati sailors Adil Khalid and Butti al Muhairi clinched their first competitive offshore racing victory at the weekend as they continue their preparations for their round the world challenge.
The pair, members of the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team which will take part in the Volvo Ocean Race later this year, were members of the guest crew on Freefire inthe San Fernando Race - a 488-nautical mile TP52 sailing regatta from Hong Kong to the Philippines
"To win was such an amazing feeling" said Khalid, 22, who represented the UAE in both the Olympic and Asian Games.
"This was a difficult race and we had to deal with wind issues, so that was good practice. As our first competitive outing as Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team members, it was good to be able to cap it with a victory."
Al Muhairi, 26, who was making his competitive racing debut in the Category 1 Offshore event, said the experience of working as a team under race conditions was a big boost to their overall training preparations.
"I am so happy. I can't wait to get back to my family and tell them all about it," he said. "I felt I managed myself a lot better and was more prepared to deal with fatigue and hunger than in previous sailing trips. Also, the fact that we were sailing with some of our team members as well as crew new to us really helped me understand better how a team has to work together to win."
Freefire's guest crew, led by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's skipper Ian Walker, put in an impressive performance to finish in 61 hours 53 minutes - nearly an hour ahead of the chasing pack.
With just six months to go until the start of the 39,000-nautical mile, nine-month around the world Volvo Ocean Race, the San Fernando test was a timely boost for the two Emiratis. They took on helm and trimming duties for the race and got to experience a wide range of conditions throughout the four-day event.
"It was a race of two halves, upwind and very lumpy to start with, which was tough on the crew as I had them on the rail all the time," said Walker, a double Olympic medallist. "The second half was sailed in much easier conditions and overall the race was a very productive and useful experience.
"Adil and Butti shared trimming and other crewing roles to help broaden their experiences. They seemed to enjoy the challenge and were well received by everyone in the Philippines. This race was a great test for them and will be a watershed moment inthe long training process to get them ready for the Volvo Ocean Race."
* Compiled by The National staff with agency