The threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean has forced organizers of the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race to reroute racing for the second and third legs. Acting on the advice of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and other marine safety experts, organizers are opting to have the boats race from Cape Town to a “safe haven port,” and then ship the boats to Abu Dhabi to resume racing. This alternative eliminates racing the boats through an East African corridor known as “Pirate Alley.”
In-port racing, perhaps one of the most popular aspects of the Volvo Ocean Race, will not be interrupted in Abu Dhabi, Volvo Ocean Race Chief Executive Knut Frostad said. “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 expects 100,000 spectators to attend the Race Village between December 30 and January 14, and has taken steps to build a waterfront race village to accommodate New Year’s Eve concerts and festivities.
Piracy has become big business off the coast of Somalia, where reports indicate that in 2010 alone, 1,181 sailors were kidnapped and $150 million went to pirate gangs in the form of ransom for ships, cargo and crew.
ISAF Secretary General Jerome Pels said “The ISAF strongly urges all yacht skippers intent on sailing anywhere in the area to seek an alternative, which the Volvo Ocean Race is now providing.”
Following racing in Abu Dhabi, the process of shipping the boats to safe haven port will be repeated, after which racing will begin toward Sanya in Southern China. Frostad said the process will allow the boats to safely continue with Leg Three without sending boats and crews through Pirate Alley.