x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Capital gears up for Volvo Ocean Race

Destination Village to become the centre for two weeks of new-year events for Volvo Ocean Race.

A general view provided by Volvo Ocean Race organisers shows Spanish boat Telefonica Blue (front) leading in a race in the Stockholm archipelago.
A general view provided by Volvo Ocean Race organisers shows Spanish boat Telefonica Blue (front) leading in a race in the Stockholm archipelago.

ABU DHABI // By the time the Volvo Ocean Race sails in on new year's eve, the area around Heritage Village will have become a bustling venue for fans to get close to the boats taking part in the "Everest of Sailing".

It should be a sensational new-year celebration, says Mubarak al Muhairi, the director general of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and managing director of the Tourism Development and Investment Corporation (TDIC).

"It will be the place to be at the beginning of 2012," Mr al Muhairi said. "It will also allow visitors to connect with our rich maritime heritage, as well as the history of the Volvo Ocean Race, and to discover more about sailing as a healthy pastime and sport."

The race will cap a busy couple of months for the capital, which will host its third Formula One Grand Prix in November, followed by the 40th National Day on December 2.

Abu Dhabi will have a team in the race, the first Arab entry in the event's 40 years. The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team, skippered by the British Olympian Ian Walker, will include a UAE national, Adil Khalid, who represented his country in sailing at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The 39,270 nautical mile race across five oceans starts in Alicante, Spain in October, stopping off in Cape Town before making its way to the Gulf.

The Abu Dhabi leg will be the focus of two weeks of entertainment with concerts, a welcoming ceremony, in-port races, amateur-professional contests, city receptions and top-class evening events throughout the city.

The TDIC was recently given the green light by the ADTA to start work on the 55,000 square metre Destination Village near Marina Mall.

From December 30, the village - the size of eight football pitches - is expected to welcome 100,000 visitors through its gates for the fortnight it is open. On January 14, the six 21-metre carbon fibre yachts will depart for Sanya in southern China.

The port at Destination Village will have permanent yacht pontoons. A channel will have to be dredged for the boats, which have 4.5-metre keels.

"This will ensure that our hosting leaves a lasting legacy for the emirate," Mr al Muhairi said.

The TDIC expects to have the main infrastructure in place by September but work on the temporary structures, such as the stands and marquees, will continue until December.

By the time the teams sail in, 130 containers of team gear, hospitality equipment and other materials will have been delivered and set up.

In the centre of the village will be the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team shore base, allowing the public to see into the sail loft, which will hold the team's 17 sails and other spare equipment.

The pontoons will let fans get right up to the boats and crews. Each team will have wet and dry areas for its shore teams to repair the boats and add extra parts if needed.

The Abu Dhabi team's training yacht, used by the ABN Amro Two boat in 2005-2006, will hang from a scaffolding cradle so fans can see the size of its keel and how it works.

Spectators can get a tour of the boat and see the cramped conditions in which the 11-man team spend the 10 months of the race until they cross the finish line off Galway, Ireland, in July.

eharnan@thenational.ae