ABU DHABI OCEAN RACING AIMS FOR A MAGNIFICENT SEVEN OF IN-PORT RACE PODIUMS
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) – the emirate’s Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) competing team – will be boosted by one of Portugal’s biggest sporting stars in Lisbon this weekend, as the Azzam crew looks to secure a seventh podium finish in the In-Port Race Series (IPRS) of the epic race.
The IPRS continues this Saturday in the Portuguese capital, with ADOR currently leading the short-course series by a single point over Team Brunel.
The Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi)-backed team is also leading the overall round-the-world series by five points, but with rival teams piling on the pressure, and with in-port race results potentially proving crucial in deciding the overall winner of the competition, the addition of Portuguese footballing hero Nuno Gomes to the Azzam deck is a welcome addition for ADOR skipper Ian Walker, who knows every point could prove crucial in the overall standings.
“There are two legs of the race left and 14 points still on the table, so the in-port scores could easily become an important factor in the final result,” said double Olympic silver-medallist Walker. “I’ve said this from day one and my opinion hasn’t changed - we’ll be pushing hard for a good result on Saturday.”
Gomes, who played for Portugal at two World Cups and three European Championships, said he was looking forward to the experience.
“I’m impressed ADOR are leading both the in-port and the offshore series,” said Gomes, who scored 166 goals in 398 appearances during a 12-season career with Lisbon side Benfica. “I’m looking forward to seeing the crew in action and finding out more about Azzam.”
But as Gomes was added to the crew, ADOR also dealt with the news that its Emirati star Adil Khalid will once again have to sit out the IPR and also the next Leg of the round-the-world race, with the recurrence of a stomach complaint.
UAE Olympian will be replaced by reserve under-30 sailor Louis Sinclair.
“I’m obviously gutted to miss Leg 8 to France,” Khalid said. “I thought my Abu Dhabi rehab had shaken this bug off once and for all, but it's returned with a vengeance. Fortunately we’re organised and have a stand-in as brilliant as Louis. I know he’ll do a great job in my absence and I’ll be there in France to welcome the guys in Go Azzam!”
Skipper Walker added: “It’s unfortunate for Adil and we all feel for him, but with so much at stake we can’t risk having a man down for a crucial leg.”
According to Abu Dhabi navigator Simon Fisher, strong currents and shifty breezes on Lisbon’s Tagus River could make for a challenging race on Saturday.
“There was plenty of action here last race,” Fisher recalled. “We race right outside the Race Village so it should be quite a spectacle. The river isn’t awfully wide and when the wind blows across rather than along it, the legs are very short. That makes the mark roundings hectic and puts a premium on excellent crew work.”
Gomes follows in the footsteps of fellow Portuguese supertar Luis Figo, who was a guest aboard Azzam for the Lisbon In-Port Race in the 2011/12 edition of the VOR. ADOR have also welcomed onboard London 2012 Olympic Gold medallist Alistair Brownlee, 2014 ITU World Series runner-up Jonny Brownlee, New Zealand rugby superstars Jonah Lomu, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, South-African triathlete Richard Murray, Springbok rugby legend Francois Pienaar, England cricketers Alastair Cook and Graeme Swann, Chinese golfer Lianwei Zhang and FIFA World Cup winner Zinedine.
The Lisbon In-Port Race is scheduled to start at 14:00 Western European Time (17:00 UAE) and ADOR fans can watch the action live online at volvooceanrace.com/live.