x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Secret port all about safety on the seas from piracy for Volvo racers

Safety of the fleet from pirates forces organisers to create a 'stealth zone' for the competitors.

Craig Satterthwaite mans the helm as Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's 'Azzam' slams through a wave as she makes her way to the secret port location to avoid pirates.
Craig Satterthwaite mans the helm as Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's 'Azzam' slams through a wave as she makes her way to the secret port location to avoid pirates.

The latest twist in round-the-world racing came into play yesterday as the leading boats in the Volvo Ocean Race entered the "stealth zone" - the region where their movements will be masked to help protect the fleet from the threat of pirates.

Groupama led the way as the five boats still competing in the second leg, from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi, began to reach the area off the coast of Somalia.

The stealth zone is one of the security measures implemented by race organisers because of the threat of pirates operating in the area.

The exact movements of the boats will no longer be displayed online as they head towards an undisclosed port in the Indian Ocean.

Once in port, the boats will be loaded on to a ship for transportation through the worst-affected waters and delivered to a point on the northern coast of the UAE.

Once there, the fleet will be unloaded and they will resume racing to Abu Dhabi, the first Middle Eastern stopover in the event's 38-year history.

Groupama, the French boat, was leading the fleet after 11 days of racing in the second leg, about 85 nautical miles ahead of their nearest rivals, Puma Ocean Racing.

Puma, Team Telefonica and Camper/Emirates Team New Zealand were all expected to enter the stealth zone last night. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Azzam were still considerably shy of the zone, and the sixth boat, Team Sanya, has withdrawn for repairs.

Once into the stealth zone, which covers an area of the Indian Ocean from the northern tip of Madagascar to the UAE, the exact positions of the teams will be hidden to the outside world.

Race fans will still be able to follow the teams' progress, although individual boats' headings will be distorted.

As Groupama enjoyed their position at the front of the fleet, the crew found time to help skipper Franck Cammas celebrate his 39th birthday - thanks to some clever planning by Yann Riou, the media crew member.

"Yann is working on the preparation of lunch with a special dessert for me," Cammas said. "He brought something in his media box with chocolate, eggs and all the stuff to prepare a chocolate cake.

"It's a nice gift for me."

Cammas said he usually spent his birthday off the water due to the lack of sailing events over the European winter.

"I haven't spent many birthdays at sea," he said. "Normally, I am at home or in the mountains, not at sea. This is the first time I have done the Volvo Ocean Race and it's good to spend my birthday on board the boat, racing. It's a very good feeling to do that.

"The weather is good, fine weather for celebrating this day."

Riou, whose role includes preparing the crew's food, said the best birthday present for his skipper was a position report showing Groupama had extended their lead at the head of the fleet.

"However, the end of the day maybe more complicated with the doldrums," Riou said.

"With its 'rubber-band effect', our competitors will make their way into the party by moving closer to our stern."