By Andy Sambidge
Team backed by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority plots attempt to win prestigious yacht race
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing said on Sunday it has completed all preparation work on its training base in Portugal, as it begins Atlantic training ahead of the 39,000 nautical mile race's Spanish start in October.
Housed in Cascais, Portugal, the purpose-built training facility includes six, 40-foot, custom-fit containers, two yacht build tents, two sail loft tents, turnkey temporary office and support housing, and two eight-metre support boats.
The base is a pivotal staging area for the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA)-backed team to put its recently launched Volvo Open 70 racing yacht, Azzam through heavy weather training off Southern Europe.
"This has been a truly international project from the beginning. From our global crew and world-wide training programme to Azzam's multi-continent design and build process, we have traversed the planet in pursuit of excellence. With less than 100 days to go, we are making sure every second counts," said Faisal Al Sheikh, events manager, ADTA.
With offshore gusts regularly blowing in excess of 25 knots, the team - which is skippered by double Olympic medallist Ian Walker - is stress testing all design features of the yacht as it readies to undertake the gruelling, nine-month round the world race.
"The next two months in Portugal are critical to our preparations and aspiration to challenge for podium honours," said Walker, who leads the 11-strong Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew - the most intercontinental assembled since the race began 38-years-ago.
The 2011/2012 Volvo Ocean Race will be contested around six continents and across four oceans before ending in Galway, Ireland, in summer 2012.
Abu Dhabi will welcome teams this New Year after they complete a punishing leg from Cape Town.
In addition to making history as the first Arabian challenger in the Volvo Ocean Race, ADTA has committed to staging a fortnight-long, emirate-wide celebration to mark the Volvo Ocean Race arrival.
The emirate is well progressed with plans for a specially-designed 55,000 sq m 'Destination Village' being built on Abu Dhabi's Corniche breakwater.
The village - around the size of eight football pitches - will open free-of-charge to the public daily from December 30 this year to January 14, next year.
ADTA anticipates welcoming more than 100,000 visitors through the gates.