Aussie yachtsman has sights on world race

Wade "Bubs" Morgan, a veteran Australian yachtsman at 30, is boat captain and bowman aboard the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team's new yacht Azzam which has the 2011-12 Volvo 70 Open world race as its first target.

And future challenges are likely to include the Sydney-Hobart classic.

Azzam, which means "determination" in Arabic, was unveiled recently at Portofino on the Italian Riviera.

Described as a state-of-the-art Volvo 70 class yacht, she was 15 months under construction by Persico SPA at Bergamo, 155km from Portofino, including 7,000 design-hours and 49,000 "build hours".

The easterly round-world Volvo 70 race, held every three years, begins this year at Alicante in Spain on October 29 with the final destination 39,270 nautical miles away at Galway in western Ireland on July 3, 2012.

Morgan is a member of what Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) calls one of the most international crews assembled since the Volvo Ocean Race began in 1973 - as the Whitbread Round World Yacht Race.

They are now undergoing final training in Europe.

After spending the winter in Abu Dhabi, the team travelled all over the globe, including weather training in the United States, wind-tunnel sail testing in New Zealand and race practice in Britain and Hong Kong.

Skippered by Britain's double-Olympic medallist Ian Walker, it has set its sights on a rigorous Atlantic Ocean sailing program before the Volvo Open - "the Everest of Sailing" contested by the world's fastest monohull yachts.

Morgan's wide experience should be invaluable in the world race and especially in a future tilt at the Sydney-Hobart.

Born in Belmont NSW, he has been sailing since the age of six on nearby Lake Macquarie, first on his family's trailer yacht then with dinghies.

Growing up, he was mentored by his father and friends, then as a teenager by Flying 15 world champion Glen Coulton.

Now standing 1.93m, he has competed in three Maxi Yacht World Championships and two America's Cup campaigns, while his Sydney-Hobart record includes boat captain on overall winner Rosebud in 2007 and line honours twice on Alfa Romeo in 2002 and Alfa Romeo II in 2009.

After the Volvo Open world race, the ADOR team will "investigate the feasibility of competing in the Sydney-Hobart and other globally-leading sailing regattas as part of the long-term vision," the director-general of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority Mubarak Al Muhairi told AAP.

"It has always been the plan for the people of Abu Dhabi to share Azzam with the rest of the world."

Across the black-hulled Azzam's bow and mainsails is emblazoned a striking falcon, the national emblem of the United Arab Emirates.

The yacht, developed by Farr Yacht Design of the US, was "one of the most sophisticated ever constructed", the tourist authority said, without giving too many technical details.

The yacht is 21.5m long, her beam 5.7m, draft 4.5m, mast 31.5m, mainsail 175sq-m, jib 94sq-m, storm jib 35sq-m, masthead spinnaker 500sq-m, spinnaker (fractional rig) 350sq-m and storm trysail 41sq-m.

"We have invested in the very best yacht design and build technology available to underpin the expertise of the highly-skilled racing team we have formed," said Sheikh Sultan Tahnoon Al Nahyan, the tourism body's chairman and the ADOR's Team Principal.

"This level of commitment is a clear signal of our intention to deliver a first-class performance in our debut Volvo Ocean Race and in our podium."

In an interview published by the Volvo 70 Open organisers, Wade Morgan said it was fantastic to be with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, which he described as a team with "high goals and a great vision".

"The crew, team and management selected by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority are great so I have very high expectations," he said, adding he brought to the team "a lot of big boat experience, for a 30-year-old at least".

"Having worked on many Maxis, run Alfa Romeo 3 since launch and more recently RAN (a Sydney-based yacht) for a brief period, I hope I can help present a reliable and functional boat for the team to race. I will be the bowman onboard, a role I hope to excel at."

Morgan, a married father of one, said it was important for the race to include younger sailors.

"I think it very important to keep bringing in younger guys, you need to keep a fresh batch of future sailors at the forefront to ensure the race legacy continues from generation to generation," he said.

Morgan said the Volvo Ocean Race was a "step up" from his previous offshore racing experience, and he expected it would provide the "hardest physical and mental sailing test" possible.

"It seems there is no job you can be too strong for. With sails weighing well over 100kg dry, I think fitness will play a big part. It is something I'm sure all teams are working on as a priority," he added.

And what qualities does he believe a sailor must have for the race?

"I think you need a unique personality that thrives on discomfort, a good work ethic and a very competitive streak. It certainly takes a special breed to want to take part in something as gruelling as the Volvo Ocean Race."


* The 39,270 nautical-mile route for the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race bypasses Australia but Auckland is one of the nine ports of call.

* The fleet of Volvo 70-class yachts is scheduled to depart the Spanish port of Alicante on November 5 and the estimated date of the first arrival at the finish line, off the western Irish city of Galway, is July 3, 2012.

* The race will be contested around six continents and across four oceans.

* The longest leg is 6,705 nautical miles from Auckland via Cape Horn to Itaja in Brazil.

* Before leaving Alicante, then at all places visited and after arrival at Galway, the yachts will contest "in port" and "pro am" races; also, various festivals and social events are planned by the hosts.


November 5-25 - Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa

December 11-January 1 - Cape Town to Abu Dhabi

January 14-February 2 - Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China

February 19-March 8 - Sanya to Auckland, New Zealand

March 18-April 4 - Auckland to Itaja, Brazil

April 22-May 6 - Itaja to Miami, Florida

May 20-31 - Miami to Lisbon, Portugal

June 10-17 - Lisbon to Lorient, France

July 1-3 - Lorient to Galway, Ireland