The identity of the ‘safe haven’ was left undisclosed for security reasons until Saturday at 0600 UTC when the ship carrying the five yachts reached the Maldives. The boats were subsequently unloaded and all should be ready for Sunday’s restart from Malé, the Maldivian capital.
“We've got ourselves a Master's degree in improvising, and loading and unloading yachts onto ships,” said Iker Martínez, skipper of overall race leaders Team Telefónica.
“Now we can focus on getting back to sailing and being back on the boat together to fight for the race which is why we are all here.”
The second stage of Leg 3 will see the teams sail just over 3,000 nautical miles from a position close to the port of Malé to Sanya in China. Eighty percent of the points for Leg 3 remain up for grabs, after the Stage 2 sprint from Abu Dhabi to Sharjah delivered the other 20 percent to all the teams except for Sanya, who will score full points for this stage*.
After Saturday’s arrival, shore crews and sailing teams launched a cautious unloading procedure that saw all the boats safely returned to the water.
PUMA Ocean Racing Powered by BERG’s Mar Mostro were the first to see their boat lifted off, followed by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Telefónica, CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand and finally Groupama sailing team.
Race organisers took the unprecedented step of splitting legs two and three into two as part of a raft of anti-piracy measures. Five boats were transported by ship to Sharjah for the second stage of Leg 2 into Abu Dhabi and out again following the first stage of Leg 3. Only Sanya failed to make the ship after developing a problem with their rigging on stage 1 of Leg 2.
While the boats are in the Maldives, the sailing crew are the only members of each team permitted to carry out repairs ahead of the start of racing. It is the first time in more than a month that the complete Volvo Ocean Race fleet has lined up to compete.
With just seven points separating overall leaders Team Telefónica, on 71, and CAMPER, on 64, competition is set to be heated. Groupama lie in third with 51, PUMA fourth with 36, Abu Dhabi 31 and Sanya, 11.
The 3,000 nautical mile racecourse is described as a navigator’s nightmare, with monsoon winds in the Indian Ocean, container ship dodging in the Malacca Strait and long stretches of upwind sailing through rough seas in the South China sea.
Sanya skipper Mike Sanderson said he had a great feeling about rejoining the fleet and racing to his team’s homeport.
“I don't think I have ever been so amped up to get back out and go racing,’’ he said. “We owe it to everyone, and ourselves to go and have a decent leg and get this show back on the right track.
“The boat is great and the team is one of the most wonderful group that I have been involved with, I really can't say enough good things about them. Through thick and thin they have just dug it in and done what needs to be done and some.
“I am sure we will have a nice leg and gain some momentum from there, so all the efforts can finally reap some rewards.”
Groupama 4 skipper Franck Cammas said his team had been reviewing all of the available weather data and they were now feeling prepared.
“We expect upwind conditions, wind on the nose, for most the time,’’ he said. “Not a lot of wind, so not necessarily the best conditions for Groupama, but we will see.
“I think all the boats have been specially optimised for this leg, with the right sails and right weight on board to be fast in these conditions. We have also done that.
“It’s not exactly the best leg for us, statistically speaking, as it’s not a leg where the boats are going to go very quickly. But we will see, it will be a very good exercise.”
* As Sanya were unable to race the first stage of Leg 3, they will score full points for Leg 3 – 30 points for 1st place, 25 for 2nd, 20 for 3rd, 15 for 4th, 10 for 5th, 5 for 6th. The other teams will score points on the following scale – 24 points for 1st, 20 for 2nd, 16 for 3rd, 12 for 4th, 8 for 5th, 4 for 6th.