No pirates: safe for Azzam to sail the whole way to Abu Dhabi

Organisers and advisers confident piracy will not be a worry this time unlike in previous years.

Everything is being done to ensure sailing is safe on the route from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi. Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race via Getty Images
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CAPE TOWN // The Volvo Ocean Race’s seven-strong fleet are free to sail all the way from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi for Leg 2 after the event’s security experts gave the all-clear this week following a big decrease in piracy.

In the 2011/12 edition, the boats were shipped from the Maldives to Sharjah during the same stage because of the threat of attack from pirates in the Indian Ocean. They were also transported over the same stretch by ship for Leg 3.

Since then the problem of piracy in the Indian Ocean has decreased dramatically following pan-national intervention and the only activity that has been recorded recently has been in the far west, well outside the route of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet.

Race chief executive Knut Frostad emphasised that he and race director Jack Lloyd would continue to work with the event’s maritime security experts and monitor the situation on a daily basis.

“We are not experts in this area of maritime security, but we work closely with those who are and their advice has been that we’re good to take this course of action,” he said.

He added that there would be exclusion zones that would keep the fleet well clear of any possible problems, but these were much less restrictive than the sailors were advised before Leg 1 in October.

On paper, the leg is likely to be slightly shorter than first envisaged – up to three days – although the nature of the changeable weather conditions means the spread of potential arrival dates is wide.

Ian Millen, chief operating officer for Dryad Maritime, which offers expert advice to the race, said: “Since 2011 the level of piracy has changed markedly. In fact, on the route that the fleet is going, there have been no reports of piratical activity in 2014 and considerably longer than that.

“But should an incident happen on the route we could change course, among other measures that could be taken.”

Millen said a combination of factors had reduced the levels of piracy around the world, including better security support on the water and more armed guards on-board vessels.

The second in-port race is tomorrow, then the fleet leaves on the 6,125 nautical mile second leg to Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing won the first leg from Alicante in Spain.

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