Volvo Ocean Race’s seven-strong fleet are to sail all the way from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi for Leg 2 after the event’s security experts gave the all-clear this week following a big decrease in piracy.
In the 2011-12 edition, the boats were shipped from the Maldives to Sharjah during the same stage because of the threat of attack from pirates in the Indian Ocean. They were also transported over the same stretch by the ship for Leg 3.
Since then the problem of piracy in the Indian Ocean has decreased dramatically following pan-national intervention and the only activity that has been recorded recently has been in the far west, well outside the route of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet.
Race CEO Knut Frostad emphasised that he and Race Director Jack Lloyd would continue to work with the event’s maritime security experts, monitoring the situation on a daily basis.
“If anything changes regarding the risks on this leg – and the next – then we can change the plans at any time,” he said. “The safety of the sailors is, of course, paramount.
“We are not experts in this area of maritime security but we work closely with those who are and their advice has been that we’re good to take this course of action.”
He added that there would be exclusion zones that would keep the fleet well clear of any possible problems but these were much less restrictive than the sailors were advised prior to Leg 1 in early October.
“The boats will now have more and better options to choose their strategy, with better angles than was anticipated before the start in Alicante,” he said.
“We will be following the boats as normal on the official Race Tracker, showing their correct position,” Frostad continued. “This leg is going to be just as exciting as Leg 1.”
On paper, the leg is likely to be slightly shorter than first envisaged – up to three days – although the nature of the changeable weather conditions means the spread of potential arrival dates is wide.
Ian Millen, Chief Operating Officer for Dryad Maritime, which offers expert advice to the race, said: “Since 2011 the level of piracy has changed markedly. In fact, in the route that the fleet is going, there have been no reports of piratical activity in 2014 and considerably longer than that.
“It is impossible, of course, to remove the risk completely – and we and the race are never complacent – but should an incident happen on the route we could change course, among other measures that could be taken.”
Millen said a combination of factors had reduced the levels of piracy around the world including better security support on the water, more armed guards onboard vessels and much improved compliance to security advice.
The fleet leaves the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, for Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, November 19 for the 6,125 nautical mile (nm) second leg. In all, the boats will cover 38,487nm, visiting 11 ports in total on every continent. The race concludes in Gothenburg, Sweden on June 27, 2015.