• 06-JAN-2015

72h at sea in a very tricky Leg 3

It's a tricky race out there – three days after leaving Abu Dhabi, the fleet is drifting in the light airs of the Gulf, the Dongfeng men slowly but surely increasing their lead.

After zigzagging along the Iranian exclusion zone, gybing every 15 minutes at times, the Volvo 65s are now sailing along the Pakistan coast in a bit more consistent breezes.
And the fleet is slowly loosening up on the tight grip on each other with the widest spread so far of over 28 nautical miles between first and last.

But this tough, intense competition is not the only threat the sailors are facing on their way to Sanya. The Chinese port is over 4,000nm to the east, and there are a lot of tropical dangers and obstacles to avoid on the way.

And that's exactly why there are five exclusion zones on the route. To protect the sailors, and protect the boats so they can get around the world in one piece and reach Gothenburg safely, next June.

Iranian exclusion zone
Where? Along the Iranian coast, northeast of the United Arab Emirates and across the Gulf
How? Decision made in conjunction with Dryad Maritime
Why? For safety reasons

"This one keeps the fleet out of Iranian waters," adds Jack, who is looking after the sport side of the event for the third time. "If you're in there, you run the risk of being stopped and questioned. It may still happen outside the zone, but we reduce that risk by keeping them out."

East African exclusion zone
Where? Along the Omani coast and down to the eastern tip of Africa
How? Decision made in conjunction with Dryad Maritime*
Why? For safety reasons

"This first zone exists purely to reduce the risks of encountering pirates," explains Jack Lloyd, the Kiwi race director. "It's the same zone than in Leg 2 – only in a reversed logic."

Malacca Strait exclusion line
Where? North of the Malacca Strait, between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra
How? Decision based on the last race
Why? For safety reasons

In this very busy maritime passage, the third zone keeps the boats out of the traffic separation scheme.
"We wanted them to be on the north side of the scheme," explains Jack. "The Indonesian side in the south has more space, but it has a lot of shallows and fishermen... the top is bad enough, but the southern side is worse!Then the fleet will switch to the southern side when they come out past Singapore, which is in the zone. It will give them a bit more room, and they'll actually be going in the right direction."

Vietnamese exclusion zones
Where? Off the Vietnam coast, the easternmost country in Southeast Asia, and on the homestretch to Sanya
How? Decision made on the sailors' request
Why? For racing reasons

These two new zones have been introduced this year, after the navigators asked for it.

"There are oil installation areas and it's recommended that you don't go into them," warns Jack. "There are all sorts of things that you might hit. And that's where one boat may sail in and get an advantage. So we've made them zones at the sailors' requests. They can now sail between the two zones or around them, but they cannot sail through. It takes any decision making on their part out."

Jack pauses. The experienced Kiwi has seen it all, from the Olympics to the Volvo, but he admits that, "80% of the stress related to the race will be dropped once the boats are docked in China."

It's a tricky balance for his team too, as they need to insure the fleet's safety but don't want to restrict the racecourse too much and put the sailors in danger.

"The sailors always have an input anyway," he smiles. "They tell us if they think we haven't done enough or done too much. And we implement it or not, as we see fit."

*Dryad Maritime is the organisation helping the Volvo Ocean Race management with maritime security, monitoring the situation on the water, sending incident reports, and checking the fleet position in regards to safety.

1. Dongfeng Race Team - Distance to Sanya 4159.9nm
2. Team Brunel - 12.9nm to the leader
3. Team Alvimedica - 16.9nm to the leader
4. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing - 18.9nm to the leader
5. MAPFRE - 25nm to the leader
6. Team SCA - 28.2nm to the leader
7. Team Vestas Wind - DID NOT START


  • Marie Laurens
    Volvo Ocean Race News Distribution Manager