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Demand for sailing lessons from Abu Dhabi schools is mounting following a students’ tour programme of the Volvo Ocean Race Stopover village on the UAE capital’s Corniche Breakwater.

This week, some 1,526 students from 13 schools in Abu Dhabi have toured the village, which celebrates the stopover in the UAE capital of the round-the-world VOR fleet and the emirate’s rich sailing heritage, getting insights into the sport, the race and local maritime history.

Some students have been fortunate enough to have Ian Walker, the double-Olympic silver medallist and skipper of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing – the emirate’s own VOR contender, conduct the tour, hear of his personal experience in racing Abu Dhabi’s yacht Azzam, which is berthed at the village, and learn the health and personal development benefits of the sport.

“I would say that regardless of nationality, the kids have all been extremely interested with many leaving asking where they can learn to sail,” said Ian. “It’s really heartening for the future of sailing here.” Students, from British, Emirati, French and international schools, have also explored many other watersports opportunities available in the emirate during their time at the village, which is open, free-of-charge to the public on weekdays from 12 noon until 9pm and on weekends from 11am until midnight until January 3. Opening times on December 25th differ with the village accepting visitors from 4pm until 10pm.

“Since the last Volvo Ocean Race stopover, Abu Dhabi Sailing & Yacht Club has been working with both private and public schools in the city to develop a youth sailing programme,” said Majed Ateeq al Mehairi, the club’s CEO. “The programme has been a great success, with many young sailors learning and competing to represent their schools in our School Sailing League.

“During this stopover we are hosting school visits, free try sailing sessions and the Youth Academy. This is a great opportunity to highlight our various programmes and we hope that the Volvo Ocean Race will inspire more young sailors to join us on the water.” And the VOR visits are going well beyond the sports curriculum. Students from the British School Al Khubairat are following ADOR’s round-the-world race bid as part of their geography curriculum while a group from the Belvedere British School were soaking up environmental messages.

“The year 9 students were delighted to learn about the crews and boats in this year’s race. The main highlights for the students, who could not stop talking about the visit on their way home, were – signing of the ADOR sail, the talk about water safety and conservation and presentations about life on board the competing Volvo Ocean 65 yachts,” said Geoff Mitchell, Head of Science, Belvedere British School. “We wish we could have stayed longer!”