While we aren’t thrilled with the idea that this ’round the world race is going to transport the sailors for a portion of it, we are definitely in agreement that cruisers should be taking a lesson from this decision and should avoid pirate alley.
Gung-ho cruising sailors embarking on transocean or circumnavigations should take note of the decision of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012 to redraw the second and third leg of the round-the-world race to avoid waters frequented by Somali pirates.
The race, which starts in Alicante in October, is a 39,000 nautical sea marathon. The legs involved are the leg from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi and the leg from Abu Dhabi to Sanya in China, both of which pass through the western section of the Indian Ocean.
After taking advice from marine safety experts Dryad Maritime Intelligence and the sport’s governing body, the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), race organizers decided that, in spite of the speed of the participants, who are much faster than most cruising boats, sticking to the original route would put crews at too much risk. Instead the boats will race from Cape Town to an undisclosed “safe haven” port, be transported closer to Abu Dhabi, and then complete the leg from there.
The process will be reversed for the third leg before the race continues on to Sanya, the fourth of 10 host ports in a race that will not finish until July 2012. “This has been an incredibly difficult decision,” said Volvo Ocean Race Chief Executive Knut Frostad. “We have consulted leading naval and commercial intelligence experts and their advice could not have been clearer: ‘Do not risk it.’ The solution we have found means our boats will still be racing into Abu Dhabi and competing in the in-port race there.”
He continued, “Abu Dhabi is a very important part of our plans, a real highlight being the race’s first-ever stopover in the Middle East, and we will now have a really exciting sprint finish to the emirate over the New Year period as well.” Frostad emphasized that the race would still be a round-the-world challenge. “We continue to be the only continuous sporting event to visit five continents over nine months of grueling sailing,” he said.
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