Monday, 2 January 2012

Race adapts to meet the pirate threat

Safe haven: Camper and the other boats were lifted up onto
a ship at an undisclosed port on stage 1 of leg 2
PHOTO: Paul Todd/Volvo Ocean Race
It’s proof of the changing face of the Volvo Ocean Race when the fleet spends Christmas Day at sea, racing hard, and New Year’s Eve at a sell-out Coldplay gig, while their precious boats skirt past Somali pirates by riding piggyback on a merchant ship. 

A lot has changed in its 38-year history. The fleet used to leave the Solent, in southern England, and turn left until they found themselves back at the finish line having circumnavigated the world.                                   

Like most things in life, to survive you need to adapt and change with the times. The evolution of today’s race is a direct adaptation to the world’s economy, politics and technologies. 

Emerging markets
It makes sense that the race should sail to emerging markets, igniting new interest and charting new ground. 

That’s why the race has done more than just turn left. It’s turned left and left again, heading back up north to Arabia and the magical Middle Eastern port of Abu Dhabi. 

The thorn in the side of this new route comes in the form of the very real threat from opportunistic pirates. 

Courageous decision
Adapting to the situation, the race management chose to take control of the issue. They took the courageous decision to suspend racing at a undisclosed port and carefully load the fleet on to a fortified cargo ship, chaperoning them north to a secret location off the UAE’s Sharjah coast. 

They are being unloaded now, ready for a sprint race into Abu Dhabi on 4 January. 
Changing the face of this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race has not been easy, and it may not fit everybody’s ideals. But you can’t fault them for mixing it up. 

Plenty of action
There is still a start and a finish line. There will still be a winner and a loser.  And if the story of the race so far is anything to go by, there will be plenty of action on and off the racecourse. 

So Happy New Year from me, and I look forward to bringing all the Volvo Ocean Race news in 2012. 

Mark Covell

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