x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

A yacht race flies the UAE's colours

It hasn't been plain sailing, but Abu Dhabi's participation in the Volvo Ocean Race has once again put the city, and the UAE, on the world's sporting map.

The last week has, in a very true sense of the word, been anything but plain sailing for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing representatives at the Volvo Ocean Race.

On Wednesday night, only 80 hours after returning to port with a snapped mast, Azzam was back in Spanish waters in preparation to rejoin the nine-month race.

It is a remarkable turnaround for the stricken boat, which had limped home after its mast broke on Saturday, 160 kilometres into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Alicante.

Azzam is fortunate to have been the beneficiary of strategic investment and some of the most cutting-edge technology in the world of yacht sailing. That, however, is no guarantee against accidents. What is beyond doubt is that the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing support team and technicians have shown their worth over the last few days, working overtime to make the boat seaworthy again. Now, with a new mast in place, Azzam is back in business.

"It's great to see the boat's back at sea looking like a proper yacht," team director Jamie Boag said. "Great to see our beautiful boat back in her natural habitat instead of on a cradle."

Beyond the never-say-die symbolism, it is now time for the Azzam - Arabic for "determination" - to deliver.

Abu Dhabi's fledgling involvement in yacht sailing has, like Formula One racing on display this weekend, put the city and the UAE on the world's sporting map. With such a high profile comes public attention and media scrutiny. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's learning curve has been steep but should stand it in good stead in the future.

That's just as well as choppier waters lie ahead for Azzam. Next up is the gruelling 10,000-kilometre trek to Cape Town, South Africa with no possibility of further mast replacements should another unfortunate mishap take place. The crew will be hoping the conditions en route are kinder to them than the ones encountered last week.

Despite gaining a harsh reputation among early sailors as a "Cape of Storms", the Cape of Good Hope can also be a place of moderate breezes and good fortune. Which Azzam's crew would no doubt welcome at this point.