ABU DHABI // The winning navigator from the Volvo Ocean Race championship boat in 2009 heads a quartet of world-class sailing stalwarts who have signed on with the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team, which will contest the 2011/12 round-the-world race.
Jules Salter, from the United Kingdom, is joined by New Zealand's Craig Satterthwaite as watch leader, Ireland's Justin Slattery as bowman and the UK's Simon Fisher in the outfit backed by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA).
And with Ian Walker, the skipper, at the helm, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing likely will boast one of the most experienced and decorated sailing teams on the Volvo Ocean Race's start line at Alicante, Spain next October.
"The impressive pedigree of these crew members is a clear signal of our intent to be a competitive force in the race," said Mubarak al Muhairi, the ADTA director general. "We hope the team's knowledge and experience may be fully harnessed to leave a compelling legacy for Abu Dhabi in terms of re-igniting a love of the sport among our own youth."
ADTA is in the final stages of appointing the remaining members of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's 11-strong crew, which will include at least one Emirati. The Emirati selection programme is in its latter stages with 20 candidates short-listed.
The hopefuls are currently preparing to undergo a demanding fitness and endurance programme to assess their mental and physical strength before sea trials on the Arabian Gulf waters begin next month.
Abu Dhabi's on-water ambitions are being equally matched by its on-shore preparations as the capital readies for its New Year 2012 hosting of the Volvo Ocean Race prior to the yachting fleet embarking on its third leg to Sanya, China. The capital will be the first Middle East stopover in the event's 37-year history.