Abu Dhabi snap up McDonald, Khalid as familiar faces return

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Abu Dhabi snap up McDonald, Khalid as familiar faces return
Young Emirati hero Adil Khalid is rejoining Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing as a crew member for the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 and six-time race veteran Neil McDonald has signed up as performance director, as part of a series of high-profile additions to the campaign announced on Monday.

Adil Khalid was just 22 when he made his Volvo Ocean Race debut as part of the Abu Dhabi crew in the last edition in 2011-12, becoming the first Arab sailor to compete in the race – and complete it.

The popular former Olympian, now 24, will once again form part of the crew under the leadership of skipper Ian Walker.

Walker, who mentored the young Emirati Olympian during the 2011-12 campaign, said Khalid's experience will serve the team well as they prepare for a title tilt in 2014-15.

"Adil earned everybody's respect on board in the last race," said Walker. "He now has all that experience and with hard work he should grow into a senior team member. Adil is a very patriotic young man and a great role model for all young sailors in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates and the entire Arabian Gulf region.

"I am sure he will get to wave the UAE flag many more times during the next race."

McDonald, from Brighton in the United Kingdom, has completed more than 200,000 nautical miles in the race over a nearly two-decade-long offshore career, racing most recently with Team Telefónica.

Alongside Walker, he will lead Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's technical programmes, training camps and crew development operations to streamline the team's victory pursuit in the 2014-15 race, starting October 4 2014 in Alicante, Spain.

"Neal is one of our generation's best sailors and will bring a fresh, winning dynamic to the team's preparation. Having played an instrumental part in a hat-trick of leg 1, 2 and 3 victories for Team Telefónica in the previous race, his broad depth and diversity of experience and knowledge will be critical in our next campaign," said Walker.

"As a qualified naval architect he is extremely analytical and capable on the technical side. I have the upmost respect for Neal and he would always be my first choice on any team sheet. I can't think of a better person to inspire our team for the challenges that lie ahead.

"With the advent of one-design boats the emphasis will be much more on the sailors and I hope that Neal will help us create the strongest team possible," added Walker, himself a two-time Volvo Ocean Race and America's Cup veteran.

McDonald, whose experience with the race goes back to 1993-94, said: "After the last race it was clear to me that, at my stage in life, I was not going to do another Volvo campaign that involved me as a sailor in a manner that I had before. I had never given up on the possibility of getting involved in a more behind the scenes role. When Ian Walker started talking to me I was excited to hear more as I see Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing having a real chance of winning this race."

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are taking part in the Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week's Big Boat Races (6-8 August) before defending their Rolex Fastnet Race record (11-13 August).

For Khalid, the return to competitive action with the team is a step towards the clear goal of winning the Volvo Ocean Race in 2014-15. "Taking part in my first Volvo Ocean Race campaign was a dream, now with a second chance at it, I want to make winning the reality," he said.

"We are already so much further ahead in this campaign than before and I feel that I have learnt so much, yet have much more to prove."

Butti Al Muhairi also returns to Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, on the shore team, after a successful stint in the previous race. The 27-year-old Al Muhairi, Khalid's reserve, will guide a core group of young Emiratis working across the shore-side operations

Al Muhairi will be led by America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race specialist Guy Barron, who joins as Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Shore Manager. With more than 25 years professional sailing under his belt, Barron will use his vast experience to optimise all shore-side operations throughout the 39,000 mile global event.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will announce its full crew line-up in the first quarter of 2014, when it will also receive its new one-design Volvo Ocean 65 race yacht.

Abu Dhabi city, the UAE capital, will host the third 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race stopover from mid-December 2014 until 3rd January 2015. Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), which is behind the emirate's race campaign as well as the stopover, is pushing forward a package-strong and tourism-driven event, including a fan-friendly Destination Village on the stunning Abu Dhabi Corniche breakwater as well as a compelling entertainment programme to leverage the highly sought-after Christmas and New Year dates.