Published: Friday, 02 January 2015

Spain's tennis ace Rafael "Rafa" Nadal paid a New Year’s Day visit to the Abu Dhabi Destination Village to give Spanish boat Mapfre a personal send-off before the start of Leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race to Sanya, China.

The Spanish team’s regular skipper, Iker Martínez, will miss the upcoming leg due to Olympic commitments.

Rafa Nadal Visits Mapfre Volvo Ocean Race Team In Abu Dhabi

Stand-in skipper Xabi Fernández gave Nadal, who is ranked no. 3 in the world and is considered the best clay court tennis player in history, a crash course in what it takes to be an elite offshore sailor, showing him around the boat.

The tour included a nav station weather and route briefing with Jean-Luc Nélias, Mapfre’s navigator, who won the last edition of the race onboard Groupama.

“For me, it’s a great opportunity and a fantastic experience to be here with all the crowd, and fantastic people around the boat,” says Nadal.

As it turns out, the tennis star also has a passion for sailing. 

“I know a bit about boats," Nadal says. "I love the sea. I’m from an island, Majorca, and my life is always very involved with the sea. So it’s just a pleasure to be here.”

Rafa Nadal Visits Mapfre Volvo Ocean Race Team In Abu Dhabi 1

The fleet will start Leg 3 of the race on Saturday, Jan 3 at 1000 UTC. The course will take them 4,670 nautical miles to Sanya, China.

(Photos: Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race)