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Victory at the Volvo Ocean Race

June 22, 2015

March 17, 2015. Start of Leg5 from Auckland (NZL) to Itajai (BRA).

During the 2011-2012 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, I joined IWC at the starting line of the race in Alicante, Spain to meet their newly sponsored crew, Team Abu Dhabi, and see the race kick-off its nine month journey.  It was IWC’s first year as the official time-keeper and Abu Dhabi’s first bid at winning the 38,000 mile race around the world.  It was also my first time attending a race I had followed for some time.

Alicante, the small coastal town in southeast Spain that sits between Cartagena and Valencia, serves as the starting line and command center for each edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.  During the weeks leading up to the official start of the race, the seaside town is brimming with fans, press, and curious visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the boats.  During our visit we had the opportunity to meet those at the helm of IWC along with the crew of Team Abu Dhabi.  Hailing from around the globe, the Abu Dhabi crew was made up of some of the world’s best sailors.  They offered a tour of their Italian designed Volvo Open 70 boat and shed some light on the conditions each sailor faces over the course of the race.

That year’s attempt was marred by an unfortunate start for Team Abu Dhabi.  They quickly met disaster in the first leg of the race, breaking the mast on their boat, Azzam, only a few hours after departing Alicante en route to Cape Town.  This set-back created an insurmountable blow that rippled throughout their future positioning among the six other teams.  Holding fast, they fought their way thorough the entirety of the event, but that initial mishap plagued them until the end, finishing fifth overall.

June14, 2015. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing during the SCA In-Port Race in Lorient.

Earlier today, the 2014-2015 edition of the VOR came to a close in Gotheberg, Sweden.  After nine months and over 38,000 nautical miles, this will cap off what many who follow the race, have considered one of the closest races to-date.  Each leg has seen dramatic finishes, along with a few tragic mishaps.  While the fight has been close, team Abu Dhabi have stuck to their guns and made up for the set backs they experienced when I last saw them head off in 2011.  Skippered by Ian Walker – one of Britain’s most decorated sailors – Abu Dhabi have maintained a strategy of repeated podium finishes throughout their most recent endeavor.  Not always number one, but consistently within the top three, they’ve kept constant pressure on their competitors and rivals keeping a strong positioning throughout the duration of the race.

After competing what’s often billed as the Everest of sailing, Team Abu Dhabi graced the podium one last time to be crowned the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race Champions.

Sailor or not, this event is worthy of respect.  Spending nine months on a boat with eight other people in some of the worst and most dangerous conditions, it isn’t for everyone.  The race is inherently full of risk and known to be one of the most physically and mentally challenging sporting events to have ever existed.  Just finishing is worth recognition, and this year I’m excited to see the team I came to support and follow back in 2011 raise the trophy.   [Volvo Ocean Race]

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Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 - Leg 5 to Itajai

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Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 - Leg 9 to Gothenburg

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All images courtesy of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Volvo Ocean Race and photographers Ian Roman, Matt Kingston, Ainhoa Sanchez, Chris Cameron and David Ramos.
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