Pirate concerns enter Volvo Race

 

Sailing:The six boats contesting the Volvo Ocean Race will be protected by armed guards when they are shipped along a secret route to the United Arab

Emirates as part of an unprecedented anti-piracy plan, organisers said on Thursday.

The second leg of a race, hit by a series of retirements on Leg 1, will take the fleet from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi but because of the growing threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean they will not be able to sail all the way.

Instead, the boats will be transported, without the sailors on board, on a heavy lift ship from an undisclosed port in the Indian Ocean to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. From there, the boats will make a short sprint to the Leg 2 finish line in Abu Dhabi.

The ship will be a considerable target, with the six racing yachts worth around $100 million in terms of design and build costs but of incalculable value to organisers.

Race CEO Knut Frostad said the measures being taken were unique in the sport.

"It was a very difficult decision but we took advice at every step of the way and in the end we were convinced we had no choice," Frostad said on Thursday. "We're doing everything we can to minimise risk for the teams."

On their way to the 'safe haven port', a wide exclusion zone will ensure they steer clear of the waters affected by pirates, who operate in a vast area off the coast of Somalia.

Organisers will not reveal the name of the safe haven port even after the boats have left as they may choose to go back to the safe place on Leg 3, which will follow a similar shipping route before the boats continue sailing to Sanya in China.

The race takes the fleet over 39,000 nautical miles (72,000 km) around the world and its reputation as one of the toughest sporting events has already been underlined in the first leg.

Three of the teams were forced to retire and are working in Cape Town to get their boats in condition for the second in-port race on Saturday and the leg two start on Sunday.

Spanish team Telefonica won the leg and head the leaderboard with 31 points followed by Team New Zealand in Camper on 29, and France's Groupama on 22.