Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan presents the winners’ award to Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team
AFTER two-weeks of non-stop action, the Volvo Ocean Race celebrations in Abu Dhabi last month bid farewell to its five-strong fleet as they set sail on leg three of the round-the-world odyssey to Sanya, China.
Marking the occasion and the handing over of the race baton to the southern Chinese destination, Mubarak Al Muhairi, director general, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which was behind the emirate’s historic hosting of the race fleet, exchanged gifts with Vice Mayor of Sanya, Huang Shaowen, dockside at the UAE capital’s purpose built Race Destination Village.
"This brings to an end a fantastic fortnight of history being made, of dreams being fulfilled. For the heroic crews, another leg begins – a daunting 4,600 nautical mile journey to Sanya. Both Abu Dhabi and Sanya are hosting this epic race for the first time, but our similarities go much further. We are both emerging tourism destinations, and share common goals for the future, as well as strong sea-faring heritages,” said Al Muhairi.
Drawing on Abu Dhabi’s centuries’ old maritime history, Al Muhairi drew parallels to the huge spectator turnout for the fleet send-off to days past when local families would come down to the beach to wish their sea-going loved ones safe travel. “In days of yesteryear, when our dhow sailors would ready to leave for months at sea, their families and friends would come down to the beach for a send off party to wish them luck and a good pearl harvest. The burning of incense would wish them a safe return,” he said.
The Volvo Ocean Race crews will continue on the 39,000 mile Everest of Sailing to Brazil and US before heading across the Atlantic Ocean to Portugal, France and Ireland, for the finish in July this year.
Abu Dhabi made history in the Volvo Ocean Race by becoming the first Arabian destination to host the fleet as well as the first Middle Eastern entry to contest the 38-year-old event. The event which has catapulted Abu Dhabi as a global destination for sports tourism witnessed over 120,000 spectators this year. Hotels in the emirate reported pre-bookings of over 12,500 hotel rooms, with the figure looking to double as post event.
Faisal Al Sheikh, events manager, ADTA, said: “Abu Dhabi’s inaugural hosting of the Volvo Ocean Race allowed us to demonstrate to an influential global audience, through the world’s media, our ability to stage world-class events and the emirate’s dynamic winter sailing destination credentials, which we believe will gain momentum as our diverse maritime and tourism propositions mature further.”
"Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is in the process of evaluating a comprehensive visitor survey it undertook during the hosting and a follow-on economic impact analysis will be released soon,” he added.
A feather to the cap at this year’s event was as the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team claimed an historic win in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011/12 Etihad Airways In-Port Race in Abu Dhabi. A herculean effort by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Briton Ian Walker, a double Olympic medallists, and backed by ADTA, which is also behind the emirate’s historic maiden Volvo Ocean Race stopover – saw the 11-man team dominate a hugely tactical contest and romp home ahead of Groupama, CAMPER, Puma and Telefonica, respectively. Sheikh Shakhboot bin Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan and HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York, were also on board Azzam for the day.
Abu Dhabi is also host to the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, an event that has witnessed tens of thousands of visitors to watch the race at the Yas Marina Circuit, and over 600 million TV viewers from across the world. ADTA continues to spearhead the emirate’s tourism agenda with more world-class sporting opportunities. Abu Dhabi has already hosted two successful Fifa Club World Cup tournaments, the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

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