An ocean racing team preparing for a gruelling around-the-world race has cast the net far and wide to assemble a crew capable of tackling the 39,000 nautical-mile challenge.
And the latest additions mean the team on board the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing yacht taking part in the Volvo Ocean Race will consist of sailors from five continents.
"Our vision for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has always been to assemble an elite group of athletes who are individually best in class and collectively personify the collaborative spirit of our competitive quest," said Mubarak al Muhairi, the director general of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) - Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team principal.
"With a multinational team in place, coupled with our international yacht design and build programmes now well in progress, we are most definitely on our way to realising this vision."
Some crew members, including Emiratis Adil Khalid and Butti al Muhairi, have been honing their skills in the biennial San Fernando Race which started on Wednesday in Hong Kong. For the two UAE sailors, the 785km TP52 race is part of an intensive training regime under the supervision of Captain Ian Walker, and is their first competitive event since joining Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
The new additions to the crew include Robert Greenhalgh of the UK, a 2005/06 Volvo Ocean Race winner and 2008/09 runner-up, as watchleader, and Justin Ferris of New Zealand, a double Volvo Ocean Race runner-up as helm/trimmer and onboard sail-maker.
In addition, under-30s crew member Paul Willcox, the former South Africa sailor of the year, and US sailor Nick Dana, who will fill the non-sailing role of on-board Media Crew Member (MCM), have also been confirmed.
They join Walker, a double Olympic medallist; Jules Salter, a 2008/09 Volvo Ocean Race-winning navigator; and Simon Fisher, a Volvo Ocean Race and America's Cup veteran - all three from the UK; Justin Slattery of Ireland, a Volvo Ocean Race 2005/06 winner, New Zealand's Craig Satterthwaite, a 2007 America's Cup winner; Australia's Wade "Bubs" Morgan, a three-time Maxi Yacht World Champion; and the young Emiratis Adil, 22, and al Muhairi, 26.
Greenhalgh is a major coup for the Abu Dhabi team. He is one of the UK's most talented next-generation sailors, having won major championships in everything from small dinghies to around-the-world yachts.
"We said we wanted to be highly competitive on all fronts. We are close to making good on that promise," Walker said.
"With the ADTA, we have pulled together a record-breaking crew which will do justice to the team's new, state-of-the-art Volvo Open 70 currently being manufactured in Italy.
"We will be highly competitive when we lineup in Spain, of that I am 100 per cent sure."
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is currently undergoing a multi-continent training and testing programme which covers sail testing in New Zealand, navigation and weather training in North America and sailing in Abu Dhabi.
Adil and Butti are currently mid-way though their own programme designed to get them into top shape for the world's toughest ocean race. The programme, which combines instructor training and race experience, will be critical in their progression as they become the first UAE nationals to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race.
The 2011/2012 Volvo Ocean Race will start in Alicante, Spain, October 29 with in-port races. Leg 1 begins on November 5 at Alicante.
Abu Dhabi will welcome teams from January 1 to 14, 2012 after they complete the gruelling second leg that will start at Cape Town in South Africa.
The final and eighth leg starts at Lorient, France, on July 1, 2012, and ends at Galway, Ireland.
* Compiled by The National staff with agencies