9 Dec 2011

Armed pirate protection for ocean race fleet

7:58 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 the race will take the fleet from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi.

However, the growing threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean means the boats 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 carrying the boats will be a considerable target, with the six racing yachts worth around $US100 million in terms of design and build costs but of incalculable value to organisers.

Race chief executive Knut Frostad says the measures being taken are unique in the sport.

He says organisers are doing everything they can to minimise risk for the teams.