By Shane McGinley
Organisers opt for secret race route to avoid being target for marine pirates
Organisers of the Volvo Ocean Race have been forced to amend their route amid fears of piracy in the Indian Ocean, impacting the sailing race’s planned route to and from Abu Dhabi.
Plans for the boats to sail through an East African corridor in the Indian Ocean on the second leg from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi, and again in the third leg from Abu Dhabi to Sanya in China, have been scrapped, organisers said Thursday.
Instead, boats will race from Cape Town to a secret ‘safe haven’ port and will then be shipped on a transport ship closer to Abu Dhabi before racing into the UAE capital.
The same process in reverse will then be put in place for the third leg from Abu Dhabi to Sanya in China.
Piracy is a well-organised and highly lucrative business and has expanded into a vast area off the coast of Somalia. An estimated $150m was paid in ransoms for ships, cargoes and crews to pirate gangs last year, while a record 1,181 seafarers were kidnapped, according to consultancy Dryad Maritime Intelligence.
The danger meant the race’s original 39,000 nautical mile route was too risky to continue with, said the International Sailing Federation (ISAF).
“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. 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."
Abu Dhabi will host the race from December 30 to January 14 with a purpose-built race village at its Corniche waterfront site and a headline New Year's Eve concert to entertain an expected 100,000-plus visitors.