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One of the toughest legs of the Volvo Ocean Race

Published on January 3rd, 2015

The third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 takes the fleet from Abu Dhabi to the Chinese coastal resort of Sanya. This city can be found on the most southerly point of the tropical island of Hainan, in the South China Sea. According to Team Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking, from the leg start on December 3, it will take 22 days to sail the 4642nm from the Middle East to China. “It promises to be a really tough and extremely hot leg.”

The route takes the fleet via the Arabian Sea, past the southernmost point of India and through the Bay of Bengal. The teams must then find their way through the Strait of Malacca, which connects the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean. This narrow passageway is known as one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. After passing the busy Singapore Strait, the fleet will set sail to Sanya.

“This will be one of the toughest legs of this race”, says navigator Andrew Cape. “The start is difficult. If we are lucky and there is wind, within 24 hours we will sail through the Strait of Oman in to the Arabian Sea. But if the wind is light, it can take much longer. Maybe two days. Once on the Indian Ocean we’ll be encountering narrow waterways, small islands, pirates, debris, floating containers and enormous ocean-going vessels, but also fishing nets and many fishing boats with neither lighting or communication equipment.” An important problem is that this section of the Indian Ocean has never been properly charted. Another area of attention is that the seabed is unstable here. The depth shown on the maps need not necessarily make sense, therefore. In order to avoid sailing into any of these obstacles, we use our radar a great deal, along with the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and of course the watchful eyes of the crew.”

“It will also be an unpredictable leg,” adds Bouwe Bekking. “Anything can happen, especially when it comes to the weather, which is even more difficult to predict during this leg than during the past stage. I’m expecting very high temperatures and plenty of rain. We don’t always have tailwinds either. Some sections will even be very close to the wind. The last bit just before Sanya will be rough. We’ll be fighting the strong prevailing winds from the north-east. I believe anyone can win. The cards have been completely reshuffled, it is a one-design class after all.”

Report by Team Brunel.

This video by Dee Caffari of Team SCA explains the leg 3 route.

Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11 with the final finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, seven teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series. The third offshore leg from Abu Dhabi, UAE to Sanya, China is 4,642 nm, started Jan. 3 with the ETA on or after Jan. 19.

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