After taking advice from marine safety experts and the sport’s governing body, on both the legs from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi and from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, the fleet will no longer sail through an East African corridor in the Indian Ocean.
Instead, the boats will race to an undisclosed ‘safe haven’ port, before being transported closer to Abu Dhabi to complete the leg from there; with the process reversed at the start of the next leg to Sanya.
Currently aboard Azzam en-route to the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing base in Cascais, skipper Ian Walker said:
“We have full confidence in the Volvo Ocean Race’s ability to safeguard the safety of the competing crews which is paramount to all other considerations.”
Groupama Sailing Team skipper Franck Cammas was equally positive about the course changes.
“I think for sure the organisation had to do something about the piracy issue and my immediate reaction is that this is a good solution. There were few options open to the organisers and I think they have come up with a good compromise for the race and for the sport.”
Team Sanya skipper, Mike Sanderson, acknowledged the scale of the problem facing the race organisers and applauded their innovative solution.
“I am sure that they have given huge effort and thought to these matters and have not taken the decision lightly. We fully support their decision and of course the safety of the team members is of paramount importance, so it is reassuring that they have sought the best possible advice.”
Sanderson also said that he believed that there was a positive outcome from the course changes.
“For Team Sanya, the excitement of a possible re-start close to Abu Dhabi in changeable conditions could make for an exciting race into Abu Dhabi with some close contact, which is always good for teams and the event profile.”
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand skipper, Chris Nicholson, also supported the decision to redraw the course.
“I welcome the common sense call that has been made by the race organisers. From my point of view, there is absolutely no down side to this. We now have Leg 2 and Leg 3 of the race being made safer. A smart decision all round. It is important to us to support the stop over in Abu Dhabi and we are actually looking forward to the race format.”
Puma Ocean Racing powered by BERG Propulsion skipper, Kenny Read, also declared his support for the changes.
“Safety of the teams is the top priority for all of us when we set out on the race, and we understand this was a necessary security step to take. We are very much looking forward to racing into Abu Dhabi,” he said.
“It is an important stop on this year’s race, and it will be exciting to be there for the start of the New Year among what will definitely be a large, passionate crowd of fans.”
Just over ten weeks remain until Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Team Sanya, Groupama Sailing Team, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG Propulsion, CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand and Team Telefónica, line up against each other for the start of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.