ABU DHABI // Emiratis are queuing up to be part of their country's historic first appearance in the Volvo Ocean Race next year.
More than 50 nationals have so far applied for a place on board the Team Abu Dhabi yacht with several more likely to register an interest before Saturday's closing date.A short-list of 12 will be drawn up next month, and in December that list will be reduced to three who will vie for a place in the crew to be skippered in the round-the-world race by Ian Walker, the British sailor.
Providing the three would-be voyagers come successfully through a rigorous training programme, one will be selected to set sail when the race starts from Alicante on October 29 next year. The other two will earn places in the on-shore support team.
Faisal al Sheikh, the events manager of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, which is backing the project, was delighted with the local interest. "The response has been extremely positive and we have already begun identifying the candidates boasting all the necessary qualities to withstand the rigours the Volvo Ocean Race commands," he said. "There are few challenges on Earth that push athletes to the limits like this, so the successful UAE applicant needs to be able to fit seamlessly into the team, be willing to meet all obstacles head-on, and be an ambassador for the emirate on the global stage."
Walker, preparing in Abu Dhabi for his second round-the-world voyage, was not surprised by the level of interest. "It was to be expected considering Abu Dhabi's deep-rooted maritime heritage," he said. "We are confident the number of applicants will increase before the deadline. And with applications still being taken - via the team's website abudhabioceanracing.ae until 24th October 2010 - competition for spots is going to be fierce.
* With agency