An epic journey on board Azzam
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team re-lives the woes and wonders of a race that has taken nine months and covered 39,000 nautical miles...
Adil Khalid says the past nine months at sea have helped him mature, something that will help when he gets to sink his teeth into his next role - as a new father.
What would you say is the main thing you have learned about yourself over the course of the epic race and what was the most challenging point of the journey for you?
The biggest thing I have learned is how to be a part of a team. Before I joined Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing I was a solo sailor. You cannot sail a Volvo Open 70 on your own, so everyone has their roles and we have to work together, it’s like a well-choreographed dance sometimes. You also rely on these guys to watch your back, this is a dangerous sport and everyone looks after each other.
Spending so much time enclosed with your team-mates must be trying at times - have there been any big bust ups onboard Azzam?
We’re a really close team so it has been generally really good. It helps when you can make a cup of tea for them when they finish their watch; simple gestures are big business onboard.
What have you missed the most about home during the time at sea?
I have missed my son growing up; he was born just before I left so I can’t wait to get home and spend lots of time with him. Great food is another thing. When you’re eating freeze-dried food all day, a nice steak is something you dream about!
Rob Greenhalgh, watch leader on Azzam is a
round-the-world racing veteran and previous winner
of the Volvo Ocean Race. He’s looking forward to a good night’s sleep when he gets home and being reunited with his dog, Salty.
What do you do to help pass so much time at sea - are you always on duty?
We work on a four hours on, four hours off watch system, so you don’t have a huge amount of down time, less if we have to make a sail change, as the whole crew needs to come back onboard. If you think you’ve only got four hours maximum to sleep, change and eat at any one time, you make the most of the down time. Plus, we all try and sneak an iPod onboard, that helps drown out the noise a little.
What is the most dangerous aspects of taking part?
You may not sleep for days - and you need to keep your wits about you as a random wave could catch you out and sweep you into the ocean. If that happens, you aren’t likely to make it back. Plus, whales, you need to keep an eye out for them, especially when it’s pitch black. Whales and debris are the biggest worry, as they could rip off the keel and you would be stranded, possibly thousands of miles from help.
Was there a particular moment that galvanised the team and brought you all together?
I think of all the teams, we have perhaps had the most ups and downs. We’ve truly tasted the highs and lows this race can throw at you. I think if I had to pin point one moment, it was getting to Miami then winning the in-port race after the struggles we had in the Southern Ocean. From there we went on to win the Trans-Atlantic Leg 7 which was a great moment.
October 2011, Alicante
Azzam’s crew timed their start to perfection and kept in front of closest rivals Camper, winning by a record 15 minutes. “It’s hugely satisfying and a real boost to the team’s confidence,” said Ian Walker, skipper of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR). “We worked hard and were really slick with our manoeuvres. Yet we still know we have a long way to go.”
November 2011, Mediterranean
After such a promising start, ADOR’s mast broke in a howling gale and 4.5m waves. It was “one of the scariest moments of my life,” said Adil Khalid. “Everyone was inspirational, especially Wade Morgan. Getting in the water to cut away rigging was brave. When faced with a situation like this, you see what you are made of.”
New Year 2011/2012, Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi made history as the first Arabian destination to host the Volvo Ocean Race fleet - and with the fleet came more than 120,000 fans at the UAE capital stopover.
ADOR, keen to play its part in making the home event a special one, powered to victory in the Etihad Airways
in-Port Race. “Words just cannot express how I feel right now - this is the most special day of my life,” admitted Adil Khalid, who was thrown overboard by his fellow crew members after the finish. "It is great that we could get the win and give Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s sailing community such a huge boost.”
March 2012, Southern Ocean
ADOR retired from Leg 5 to carry out urgent repairs to Azzam. Having noticed hull delamination on March 29, the team got to work with at-sea remedial repairs. Their heroics weren’t enough for Azzam to deal with forecasted hurricanes off Cape Horn so they travelled to Chile to finish repairs. “We’re in the middle of the Southern Ocean, thousands of miles from anywhere, drilling 30 bolts into Azzam. This may be the craziest thing I’ve ever done on a boat,” said Ian Walker.
May 2012, Miami
Back on form, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing snatched a nail-biting victory in the Miami In-Port Race, out-foxing French outfit Groupama with a last-gasp tactical stroke of genius to win in front of thousands of US fans. “We wanted to show the world that Abu Dhabi hasn’t given up. We’re a good team, we’re determined, and it feels great to win a race. Overall, we’ve had a tough time of it and we had no time at all to prepare for the last in-port race, so we made a special point of having two full days’ training here,” said Adil Khalid.
May 2012, Lisbon
Widely regarded as one of the race’s ‘blue ribbon’ legs, this year’s 3,500 nautical miles Trans-Atlantic crossing from the USA to Western Europe was one of the most thrilling in the race’s history. The six-strong fleet exchanged blows from the outset. Azzam snatched the win, after resolutely holding off Groupama. By now ADOR’s unyielding work ethic has won plaudits in high places. “The team’s determination to overcome all odds to clinch this historic win... serves as an inspiration that through hard work and dedication, endeavour has no limits,” said Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.
June 2012, Lorient
The home stretch of the 39,000 mile, nine-month race. The journey was arduous and memorable in equal measures. Adil Khalid, speaking on the last leg, said: “Contesting this race and being a part of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has helped me grow. We are so close to the finish line and I keep imagining sailing into Galway.
“The Irish are always so warm, hospitable and welcoming; in many ways it reminds me of Abu Dhabi.”