An enduring image of the Volvo Ocean Race

Adil Khalid from the UAE onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker from the UK winning the Etihad Airways In-Port Race in Abu Dhabi during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
The Volvo Ocean Race’s first Emirati sailor, Adil Khalid, waved a United Arab Emirates flag in celebration of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s team victory and the image of that celebration is growing to be an enduring image of the 2011-12 edition of the VOR.

The 23-year-old became a striking figurehead on the bow of Azzam follow his team’s victory on home waters in the Etihad Airways In-Port Race on Friday -- a move that has become almost a trademark since Khalid first struck the pose after winning in the in-port race at Alicante in October.

Not even being thrown overboard after crossing the finish line by his crewmates Justin Ferris and Robert Greenhalgh could dampen Khalid’s exuberant spirit, as he resurfaced grinning as wide as ever.

On the dock while dripping wet with a mix of sparkling date juice and seawater, Khalid revealed that he had woken with a feeling of greatness on Friday.

'It was my dream,' he said. 'I woke up in the morning and when I prayed I felt good. We won in our home country and it's a great feeling.'

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Khalid and his country, the first United Arab Emirates stopover in the race’s 38-year history, have become a constant source of motivation for British skipper Ian Walker and his crew.

Walker said it was a dream come true to be able to give victory to Khalid -- who was chosen from 120 hopefuls during an Apprentice-style TV audition process – and the people of Abu Dhabi, who had given the team their unfailing support.

'We knew if we could win it would be very special for everyone,’’ he said. 'We’re involved in a nine-month odyssey round the world, but today is the most important day for Abu Dhabi.

'We have never seen this many boats out on the water to watch racing, and there are lots of people out who are new to sailing. Right now all they are seeing is their country flag bring waved. It’s a real thrill for that to happen.'

Volvo Ocean Race website