x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Azzam captain hopes Miami brings a change of luck

Ian Walker is hoping some Florida magic will rub off on him. He trained in Miami prior to winning gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games and Sydney 2000.

The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing shore team quickly got Azzam out of the water and tuned up for the next leg, to Lisbon, Portugal.
The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing shore team quickly got Azzam out of the water and tuned up for the next leg, to Lisbon, Portugal.

Ian Walker launched two successful bids for Olympic sailing medals while based in Miami, and he considers the Florida city "lucky".

The British skipper will be hoping for more good fortune as he leads Azzam, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's boat, in the in-port race on Saturday and then out into the Atlantic on Sunday, bound for Lisbon on Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Azzam docked in Miami last weekend following the round-the-world race's sixth leg - a testing 4,800-nautical mile route from Itajai, Brazil.

The Abu Dhabi team finished fifth among the five boats that made the journey.

Azzam also lies fifth in the overall standings with 68 points. Team Telefonica remains the leader, with 164 points, but the Groupama, Camper and Puma teams all gained on the Spanish team in Leg 6 and are 11 to 17 points back of the leaders.

"Despite our final position, it was great sailing into Miami again," Walker said.

"Finishing the end of a long ocean leg always brings a measure of personal satisfaction, as it is never easy sailing thousands of miles in these yachts.

"I love Miami and thanks to a string of good results in international race weeks here, I've always thought of it as a 'lucky' venue for me. Let's hope that rolls over to the in-port race."

Walker, 42, took silver medals at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and at Sydney 2000.

Hampered by slow boat speed in previous offshore legs, Walker said work is progressing on the Abu Dhabi boat ahead of the big race weekend.

Walker already has led the team to two in-port wins, in the opening stage at Alicante and at home in Abu Dhabi.

"We know where our weaknesses lie and we're looking to minimise losing miles on the others," he said. "In the next leg, the fleet could spend a lot of time in similar wind and sailing very similar strategies." He said he and Jules Salter, the navigator, will be under pressure to find "something extra" to keep Azzam competitive.

Adil Khalid, the Emirati member of the Azzam crew, said the experience has been memorable. "As a team, we have experienced everything this race can throw at you and we're still here to tell the tale," he said.

The time on shore in Miami has been productive.

"Being in Miami is a huge milestone for me," Khalid said. "Everyone has been so welcoming and generous, and so interested in finding out more about Abu Dhabi. It has been great telling everyone about my home. Now I want to let our actions speak with a great result this weekend."

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