An oddball start and some novel woe for the overall leader Telefonica marked on Sunday as the six Volvo Ocean Race boats left the Maldives for their 3,051-nautical-mile Leg 3 slog to Sanya, China.
With the Maldives the "secret" port to which the yachts hitched a ride on a ship because of piracy worries, the Indian Ocean island nation could construct no elaborate stopover such as the recent one in Abu Dhabi.
Amory Ross, the Puma media crew member, labelled it a "strange start", reporting: "The line was between one flag on one shore and a radio tower on another; there were virtually no spectators, tons of ferries, fishing boats and more obstacles to dodge leading up to the gun."
The boats left at noon UAE time, 1pm in the Maldives, and as they angled south in a tight bunch, Telefonica lapsed as it strained to repair a breakage in a headsail, the largest sail in its stash. By 5pm UAE time, Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand led narrowly over Puma, followed closely by Groupama, Team Sanya, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Telefonica, which trailed Abu Dhabi by 1.3 nautical miles.
"The first 1,000 miles or so isn't too bad," Chris Nicholson, the Camper skipper, told the Volvo Ocean Race website.
"There's just the lighter trade winds, they get up to 15 knots at one stage."
Later come the ship-and-debris-ridden chaos of the Malacca Straits, after which, he said: "It looks like we're in for a rough time all the way to China."
Said Ian Walker, skipper of the Abu Dhabi boat running fifth overall but hot off two short-course wins: "It's going to be a lot of upwind sailing, so I think we'll learn a lot about the relative boat speeds of the boats upwind, certainly in the first four days."
The estimated arrival at the Chinese resort island of Sanya is February 5.