Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, has broken new ground for the Volvo Ocean Race by being confirmed as the first Middle East stopover in the history of the event.
A boat from Abu Dhabi will also take its place on the start line of the 2011-12 race, which is scheduled to begin in Alicante, Spain, in the autumn of next year.
The agreement was signed yesterday by Mubarak Al Muhairi, the director general of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad.
"We found in Abu Dhabi an incredible synergy," says Frostad. "This destination has a long maritime history that it wishes to elevate to a new era while celebrating the achievements of the past. There was a willingness to meet our requirements, an understanding of the participants' needs and an enthusiasm which simply stood out ahead of others."
Team Abu Dhabi will also campaign a new Volvo Open 70, which will be built in the UAE capital by the Abu Dhabi Mar Group.
"It is our ambition to include a UAE national in the crew who will be our ocean ambassador representing the emirate's long seafaring heritage," says Al Muhairi. “The locally constructed boat will also signal our potential as a new build and repair port."
A new marina being built at Emirates Palace—the emirate's signature hotel and among the world's most opulent—will be the focal point for all planned Volvo race activities.
"This event will take Abu Dhabi's marine leisure proposition to the world and will enable us to demonstrate, first hand, our powerful credentials to a highly influential professional yachting audience," says Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of ADTA.
Volvo Ocean Race organizers are continuing to announce stopover ports for the upcoming race throughout the month of March. For more on the event, click here.