9 Dec 2011

Armed guards will help Volvo fleet on second leg

5:22 am on 9 December 2011

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.

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 150 million dollars in terms of design and build costs but of incalculable value to organisers.

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.

Team New Zealand is second after the first leg.