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June 20, 2018

Malacca Strait hazards spell danger for Ocean Race fleet

ALICANTE, Spain (Reuters) – Volvo Ocean Race’s six-strong fleet enters one of the most hazardous phases of the nine-month, round-the-world event in the next 24 hours when it will reach the Malacca Strait on the third leg from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China.

The 500-nautical mile (nm) stretch of water, which separates the Indonesian island of Sumatra and Malaysia, narrows to 1.5nm as it funnels past Singapore into the South China Sea and is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

It is notorious for the huge mountain of man-made debris that has been dumped there. The racing boats have had to dodge discarded washing machines and fridges in past editions of the 38,739nm, 41-year-old event, which is held every three years.

There are huge tankers to avoid plus dozens of slow moving or stationary fishing vessels to navigate around and their nets can easily become snagged in the boats’ keels.

“We’ve got to negotiate this really narrow passage with intense shipping and get out of that alive and in one piece,” Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Justin Slattery (Ireland) told Reuters on Saturday.

“There are loads of hazards,” added Britain’s Dee Caffari, of Team SCA, the only all-women crew in the fleet and the first to enter the male-dominated race for 12 years.

“Everyone always talks about the Malacca Strait. Tidal influences, land influences, fishing and shipping vessels. It’s going to be pretty full on,” she told reporters from the boat.

The 4,670nm leg is led by Chinese boat Dongfeng Race Team. At 0440 ET on Saturday, they led by 65.7nm from Spanish boat MAPFRE.

Victory in Sanya around January 27-28, the likely arrival dates of the leaders, would take Dongfeng top of the overall standings in the race.

No Chinese boat has ever won a leg in the event, formerly the Whitbread Round the World Race, despite an entry in both the 2008-09 and 2011-12 editions. Dongfeng nearly broke that duck in the first two legs, but finished a narrow runner-up in both.

A seventh boat in the starting fleet, Team Vestas Wind, was grounded on a reef in leg two and is currently being shipped to Italy for a rebuild ahead of a planned return to the event in June for the final two legs from Lisbon.

The race, which started on Oct. 4 in Alicante, Spain, is scheduled to finish in Gothenburg, Sweden on June 27.

(Editing by Toby Davis)

Link to original – 

Malacca Strait hazards spell danger for Ocean Race fleet

Team Brunel holds Volvo Ocean Race 2nd-leg lead

ALICANTE, Spain (AP) — Three teams have held the Volvo Ocean Race second leg lead within the last 24 hours as the fleet sped toward the stage’s conclusion in Abu Dhabi.

Dutch team Team Brunel, led by 51-year-old Bouwe Bekking, held a slim advantage by 0940 GMT on Sunday on the 5,200-nautical mile leg between Cape Town and the Emirates. Bekking is contesting the race for a record-equaling seventh time, after first competing in 1985-86. He has never won it.

They led by just three nautical miles from Chinese entry Dongfeng Race Team with first leg winner Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, two nautical miles further adrift. The three boats have swapped the lead through the weekend.

Only six boats are contesting the second of nine stages in the nine-month global offshore race after Danish entry Team Vestas Wind was forced to pull out at the start of the week when its boat was grounded on a reef in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

The nine-man crew escaped their disintegrating vessel to reach a tiny island, Íle du Sud, which is part of the St. Brandon archipelago and surrounded by sharks. They remained there for two days until a small fishing boat took them to Mauritius on Wednesday.

The fleet is expected to start arriving in port in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

Latest placings: 1 Team Brunel (Netherlands), 2 Dongfeng Race Team (China), 3 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, 4 MAPFRE (Spain), 5 Team Alvimedica (Turkey/U.S.), 6 Team SCA (Sweden).

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Team Brunel holds Volvo Ocean Race 2nd-leg lead