The Volvo Ocean Race is undoubtedly the world's most challenging sailing event. Often referred to as the 'Everest of Sailing,' elite crews will travel 38,739 nautical miles with stopovers in 11 ports. The race starts on 4 October from Alicante, Spain, and continues to South Africa, United Arab Emirates, China, New Zealand, Brazil, United States, Portugal, France, The Netherlands, and Sweden over a nine-month period.
The race is not for the fainthearted. It's extremely testing as the athletes push themselves to the limit of endurance. Confined spaces, severe sleep deprivation, harsh weather conditions, and extreme temperatures (-15°C to +40°C) are all par for the course. Perhaps the hardest challenge is pushing their bodies to the limit with only freeze-dried food to eat.
Abu Dhabi's Ocean Race team is participating in the race for the second time, with British skipper and double Olympic medallist Ian Walker standing strong at the helm of his crew on the 'Azzam' – an 8-sail, Volvo Ocean 65 racing boat by Farr Yacht Design.
The second stopover of the race is Abu Dhabi from mid-December 2014 to January 2015 and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority plans to roll out the red carpet for teams and visitors during this two-week event. Participants can expect a welcoming ceremony, in-port racing, top-class concerts, and entertainment ensuring that the U.A.E. capital is the best place to celebrate the New Year.
In the spirit of this exciting race, we caught up with the founder and Managing Director of Eden Yachting, Philippe Saad. An Offshore Yachtmaster and the skipper of the Volvo 60 Ocean racing yacht, he is a seasoned captain with over 20,000 nautical miles logged in Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, Middle East, Indian Ocean, and Asia. Philippe is no stranger to racing – over the past 15 years, he's cruised and raced numerous yachts in the UAE and internationally. He currently runs Team Carat, racing competitively on his Farr design yacht in the UAE's top regattas. His insight is like gold dust for avid sailors.
LUXOS: How can a sailing enthusiast get involved in the U.A.E.?
Philippe Saad: If a keen sailor wants to experience sailing on an ocean racing yacht, there are very few places in the world to do it. At Eden Yachting, our team has a huge amount of combined sailing and yacht racing experience and there are no other companies in the U.A.E. that offer big sailing yachts for charter. As sailors ourselves, we're experts at looking after novice sailors and offer those with more experience an exciting afternoon on the water.
LUXOS: What can a novice sailor expect to learn?
Philippe: We're not there to teach them how to sail around the world (unless it's the World Islands!) so we try not to overload them with technical sailing terminology. We do however encourage beginners to get involved, working with more experienced sailors in some of the easier crewing positions as well as just enjoying the thrill of the ride.
LUXOS: What type of boats does Eden charter?
Philippe: We take people out on our Beneteau 45-foot yacht or on the Volvo 60 – depending on their preference and budget. We also run Team Building for corporate groups using several yachts in a racing format with a prize giving at the end of the afternoon. Many of the people we take have never been on a sailing yacht before and they come ashore so excited that they want to head straight off and start taking lessons.
LUXOS: Does Eden provide lessons?
Philippe: No formal lessons but we charter our 45-foot yacht for AED 1,500 per hour (max capacity 8 to 10 guests), and the Volvo 60 for AED 2,000 per hour (max capacity 10)
LUXOS: How is Eden involved in this year's Volvo Ocean Race?
Philippe: Currently the Volvo 65s are the vessels being raced at Volvo Ocean Race. We're offering people the chance to experience sailing on our Volvo 60's (the former model). On these big ocean racers the students understand a bit more about the kind of conditions the 'round the world' yachtsmen and women live in for months on end. We also provide many of the luxury motor yachts used for hospitality purposes to view the in-port racing during the VOR Abu Dhabi Stopover.
EDEN Yacht Charter
Tel: +971 4 328 2930, +971 50 655 3084
RAK Sailing Academy
Tel: +971 56 3524659
Dubai Offshore Sailing Club
Tel: +971 4 3941669