x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Azzam returning to Abu Dhabi

The Volvo Ocean Race is set to make its first stop in a Gulf country.

ABU DHABI // Wednesday has been announced as the day on which the Volvo Ocean Race will arrive in the capital.

The fleet will receive a traditional Emirati welcome upon arrival in Abu Dhabi tomorrow, the first Gulf city to host the nine-month race.

Organisers estimate the yachts will appear in mid-afternoon.

The teams will be greeted by a fleet of dhows manned by Emirati crew chanting the songs once sung to pearl divers going away for months at sea.

Ayala dancers will perform as the crew members come ashore and girls in traditional dress will shower the crew with confetti in the colours of the UAE flag as they make their way to the welcoming committee.

Team Abu Dhabi's yacht, Azzam, which includes Adil Khalid, the only Emirati sailor to have taken part in the race, will be one of the star attractions. Its journey has not been easy.

In November, shortly after setting off from Spain, the team suffered a major setback as the mast broke into three pieces when it landed from a large wave, meaning they had to suspend racing just five hours into the 39,270-nautical mile marathon.

Faisal Al Sheikh, events manager at the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, said: "This is a day when Abu Dhabi writes its way into sailing history annals as we are the only Arabian Gulf city ever to host the race and we are determined it will be a day to remember for all the right reasons and that it is shared with all possible."

The fleet left South Africa on December 11. After the Abu Dhabi sojourn, the yachts are to set sail for China on January 14 in the third leg of the race.

mswan@thenational.ae