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PORTUGAL (January 18, 2005) – The first of the two TEAM ABN AMRO Volvo Open 70 race yachts was Christened in Portugal yesterday. The event was broadcast via a live web-cast using the latest satellite uplinks and webcams allowing all the banks and their 105,000 employees worldwide to take part.


With a helicopter hovering overhead to spotlight its way to the christening pontoon, years of planning and months of building activity turned into celebration as the first Volvo Open 70 made its bow in southern Portugal.


ABN-AMRO was the star of the party in the little fishing town of Portimao, to the sound of cheers not just from the locals who have welcomed the team into its community, but from guests who had poured in from round the world. There were cheers, too, from others joining in by video link from both Amsterdam and Sao Paolo, making the whole evening - afternoon in Brazil – a family affair.


The cyber-christening allowed all of the international regions of the bank to join in as the sound system also played welcoming music and a laser light display both picked out the various colours of the rigging and halyards while a flotilla of colourful local small fishing boats formed a protective semi-circle and the name of both the bank and the town were suspended mid-air over the water in green lights.


The crew, all in black, lined up in the cockpit as, under the floodlights ashore, Mr Helder Martins, the President of the Algarve Tourism Board said that ABN-AMRO, in picking Portimao for its training base, had said it was "maybe the best place in the world" and the President of the local council added: "Portimao is already part of your team to win the Volvo Ocean Race."


Tom de Swaan, the bank's chief financial officer and a member of its managing board, said that participating in the Volvo Ocean Race was a "natural choice for us" and "we are convinced we will make a great impression."


But the big moment was not left to one person or celebrity. Instead, seven representatives of the different sections of the bank's business interests, flown in from around the world, were called down to the pontoon. They were then invited to place one hand on each other's over a large red button. The same was done in Sao Paolo and at the Oval Tower headquarters in Amsterdam and, with a countdown from 10 to zero, all then pushed the electronic signal which released the traditional bottle of champagne suspended over the bow.


It broke, the shore crew was then also called down to the pontoon to take their bows, and the whole affair was rounded off with a display of fireworks, music by Aaron Copland, Edward Elgar and Gustav Holst, plus a party for the 300 who had been watching and contributing their own enthusiasm and excitement.


It was not until the following morning that the yacht was taken for a gentle outing in bay just outside the town. The breeze was soft, the waves benign, and there was no rush to put either the boat or its crew under pressure. But there was no hiding either the inherent power in this new breed of ocean racing yacht, nor the huge smile of pride on the face of its designer, Juan Kouyoumdjian.


Volvo Cars of Canada Ltd. is part of the Volvo Car Corporation of Göteborg, Sweden. The company provides marketing, sales, parts, service, technology and training support to the 44 Volvo automobile retailers across the country. The company’s product range includes the flagship S80 luxury sedan, the versatile V70 wagon, the S60 sports sedan and an XC-line of vehicles that includes the rugged XC70 and the award-winning XC90 sport utility vehicle. For 2005, the company is introducing the completely redesigned S40 sports sedan and V50 sportswagon, providing performance for a new generation.


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Doug Mepham

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Chad Heard


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