Tropical storms threat for Volvo Ocean Race

November 19, 2014

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) Boats in the Volvo Ocean Race fleet headed for one of the most testing legs of the event between South Africa and Abu Dhabi on Wednesday with the threat of tropical storms awaiting them in the Indian Ocean.

Organizers made a late decision to place an exclusion zone leading up to the Seychelles in an attempt to steer the seven boats clear of storms early in the 6,125-nautical mile Leg 2.

Boats that stray into the zone will lose race points.

Race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante said: ''We have just started the tropical cyclone season in the south Indian Ocean and it seems like we will have plenty of this activity for this leg.''

Race management has also introduced exclusion zones past Mauritius to avoid the fleet veering too close to the east African coast where there is still a possibility of piracy attack.

In the last race in 2011-12, the entire fleet was transported part of the way in a cargo ship from the Maldives to Sharjah on the advice of maritime safety experts, Dryad. The same company has told race management that a similar measure will not be necessary this time.

Neither pirates nor cyclones concerned the skipper of Leg 1 winners Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker, prior to departure at 1600 GMT on Wednesday.

His team was forced to abandon sailing for the opening leg in 2011 after sustaining a broken mast on the first night of the race following a Mediterranean storm.

This time they had no such problems and Walker's crew led the fleet into Cape Town by a mere 12 minutes from second-place Dongfeng Race Team of China after 25 days of sailing from Alicante, Spain.

Walker is determined to triumph in the second stage to his team's home port of Abu Dhabi which is likely to take between 22-28 days depending on conditions.

''If you asked me if there's one leg I want to win, this is it,'' he told a news conference. ''Unfortunately, there's six other very good crews trying to stop us.''

One of those is the Spanish boat MAPFRE. Led by 2004 Olympic gold medalist Iker Martinez, it finished last in Leg 1 leading to the replacement of the fleet's most famous sailor, Michel Desjoyeaux, of France.

His place was taken by Briton Rob Greenhalgh, whose sister Libby is competing on a rival boat, Team SCA from Sweden. The pair is the first brother-sister combination to take part in the 41-year-old event since Tanya and Edwin Visser of the Netherlands in 1989-90.

The first boat to sail out of Cape Town in winds of up to 35 knots on Wednesday evening was Team Brunel, followed closely by MAPFRE and Team SCA.