Volvo Ocean Race fleet catching a lift to the UAE

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet have turned into passengers, or in this case cargo, as organisers have hoisted the yachts aboard a cargo ship for safe passage to Sharjah.

Two of Camper/Emirates Team New Zealand crew members watch as the Volvo Open 70-class sailing yacht is hoisted aboard a cargo vessel to be shipped to Sharjah.
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The five boats competing in the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race are safely on board a transport ship and headed for Sharjah.

Once they arrive in the UAE, sometime early in the New Year, the boats will complete the leg with a one-day sprint down the coast to Abu Dhabi, where they will be docked during a festival along the Corniche breakwater.

Wednesday, teams were relieved to have their boats safely loaded on the ship that will ferry them through waters that organisers considered vulnerable to a risk of piracy attacks. Sailors, shore crews and race workers had worked around the clock to complete the nerve-racking task of hoisting the 15-ton racing yachts on to the ship.

"The boats are built to be in the water, not in the air," said Iker Martinez, the captain of Telefonica team, who won the first segment of the second leg and hold the overall lead.

"Operations to load and unload a boat are tricky, particularly with these super-fragile boats, and it does scare me a bit. However, the guys in the team are really good at this, and we have absolute confidence in them."

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet - missing Team Sanya, who are repairing their yacht in Madagascar - were lifted 40 feet by crane in a painstaking operation that took almost eight hours.

"That was one long day," said Jack Lloyd, the race director, at the completion of the task.

Teams will face the same precarious exercise again in Leg 3, with the loading and unloading making for a total of 20 manoeuvres and a nervous time for Lloyd.

"Taking them off the ship will be much easier," Lloyd said. "And now that we've done it five times, so should loading them again for Leg 3."