Sir Steve Redgrave, the five-time British gold medal winning Olympian rower and one of the greatest athletes of all time, swapped oars for lifejackets as he set sail with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing - the team which will compete in the 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race - the gruelling, 39,000 nautical mile round-the-world race, known as the ‘Everest of Sailing’.
Visiting the UAE capital in his ‘See Britain Ambassador’ role ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Sir Steve was keen to pass on the knowledge torch to Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s young Olympian, UAE national, Adil Khalid.
The 22-year-old Emirati, who carried his country’s flag to Beijing in 2008, also made history after beating more than 120 other hopefuls to secure his berth on the Abu Dhabi team readying to contest the ultimate endurance ocean race, which stops in the UAE capital next New Year’s day.
Sir Steve also took the chance to meet up with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s skipper and double Olympic medallist, Ian Walker of Great Britain. Walker, originally from Southampton in the UK, competed in two of the same Olympic Games as Sir Steve, in 1996 and 2000.
And, with Abu Dhabi making history by becoming the first Middle Eastern host port for the race in its 37-year history, Sir Steve – from Marlow, Buckinghamshire in England - is adamant the emirate embraces the opportunity to create a sporting legacy that lasts long after the Volvo Open 70 racing yachts head off.
In addition to Walker and Adil, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has already signed up 2008/2009 Volvo Ocean Race winning navigator, Jules Salter from the United Kingdom; Volvo Ocean Race 2005/06 winner, Justin Slattery of Ireland; New Zealand’s Craig Satterthwaite, a 2007 America’s Cup winner; and Volvo Ocean Race and America’s Cup veteran, Simon Fisher from the UK.
Development of a brand-new Volvo Open 70 for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is currently well-progressed. Designed by Farr Yacht Design from the US and being built in Northern Italy by Persico SPA, the team is expecting delivery of the state-of-the-art yacht this June.
The 2011/2012 race begins in Alicante, Spain, in October 2011 and ends in Galway, Ireland, in the summer of 2012. ADTA believes its involvement will help position the emirate, which boasts a 400 kilometre coastline and over 200 natural islands, as a preferred winter sailing destination.