Increasing Piracy Changes Volvo Ocean Race's Route

Organizers said Dryad Maritime Intelligence Service Ltd. and the sport's governing body, the International Sailing Federation, advised them to make the changes because crews would face too much risk.

Organizers of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, a major yachting event that begins Oct. 29 in Alicante, Spain and will follow a course around Africa, across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and ultimately to Galway, Ireland, in July 2012, announced Aug. 18 they have redrawn the routes for the second and third legs because of increasing piracy in the Indian Ocean. The competing boats would have sailed through the Indian Ocean on the second leg from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi and again in the third leg from Abu Dhabi to Sanya in China. Maritime safety experts from Dryad Maritime Intelligence Service Ltd. and the sport's governing body, the International Sailing Federation, advised them to make the changes because crews faced too much risk.

"This has been an incredibly difficult decision," Volvo Ocean Race Chief Executive Knut Frostad said in a news release. "We have consulted leading naval and commercial intelligence experts, and their advice could not have been clearer: 'Do not risk it.'"

The crews now will race from Cape Town to an undisclosed "safe haven" port, be transported closer to Abu Dhabi, and then complete the leg from there, with the process reversed for the third leg before the race continues to Sanya. This means the boats will still race into Abu Dhabi and can compete in an in-port race there.

Dryad told the organizers that piracy is well organized and has expanded into a vast area off the coast of Somalia, with a record 1,181 seafarers kidnapped by pirates in 2010. "The measures taken by the Volvo Ocean Race are very much in line with the advice that the International Sailing Federation has been giving for some time," said ISAF Secretary General Jerome Pels.

The visit to Abu Dhabi, set to host the race from Dec. 30, 2011, to Jan. 14, 2012, is the first time this race will have visited the Middle East.

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