3rd leg of Volvo Ocean Race starts in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) The third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race started Saturday with the fleet setting sail for China from Abu Dhabi, missing Team Vestas Wind as the badly damaged boat was being assessed for repairs.

The Danish vessel has been shipped to Malaysia after it was retrieved from a remote reef in the middle of the Indian Ocean where it was grounded following a collision on Nov. 29 during the second leg from Cape Town to the United Arab Emirates.

The team hopes to rebuild it in Italy and return to the race for the final two legs of the nine-month offshore race from June 7.

The Vestas crew was at the dock to wave off the remaining six boats.

Three teams – Team Brunel (Netherlands), Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Dongfeng Race Team (China) – are tied at the top of the standings with four points apiece.

They are chased by Team Alvimedica (Turkey/United States), which was awarded an extra point for time lost in the second leg for diverting course to sail to the assistance of Vestas Wind.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing led the six-strong fleet out of their host port under a thick blanket of fog after several laps of an in-port course. They were pursued by Dongfeng Race Team and Team SCA (Sweden), the all-female crew who won the Abu Dhabi in-port race on Friday.

The third leg of the race is expected to be one of the most hazardous of the nine-month event, which finishes in Goteborg, Sweden, on June 27.

The boats will need to navigate the 500-nautical mile Malacca Strait dividing the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Malaysia. Those narrow waters could be more difficult to sail than the open sea.

”I’m pretty happy dealing with big waves and strong winds, but the complexity of dealing with a narrow channel, and a very large amount of shipping (boats) is what causes the problems,” Team Alvimedica’s experienced Australian navigator Will Oxley said. ”Some 300 feet of steel coming at you at 20 knots is always concerning, particularly if you haven’t got much control over your speed if there’s not much wind.

”Then you have squalls, very violent squalls in the night, and there’s lots of fishermen who are not showing navigation lights and have long nets. You can get tangled in the nets, or worse still, run someone over. So it’s very stressful.”