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August 19, 2018

Sailing-Malacca Strait hazards spell danger for Ocean Race fleet

ALICANTE, Spain, Jan 17 (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 0940 GMT 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)

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Sailing-Malacca Strait hazards spell danger for Ocean Race fleet

Chinese boat stretches lead in Volvo Ocean Race

ALICANTE, Spain (AP) — Dongfeng Race Team stretched its lead at the head of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet in the third leg to China on Sunday.

Charles Caudrelier’s crew are aiming to become the first Chinese boat to win a leg in offshore sailing’s leading round-the-world race, which was first held in 1973.

There would be no better place to do it than Sanya, their home port on the southern tip of China, which is the destination of the 4,670-nautical mile leg three that began in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 3 and is likely to be completed around Jan. 24.

On Sunday, after nine days of sailing, they had increased their lead of just under 12 miles over closest challengers, Team Brunel of the Netherlands.

The boats were locked at the top of the standings before the start of the leg on four points with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

The fleet still has just under 3,000 nautical miles to sail, including a hazardous stretch through the Malacca Strait, which is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and separates the Indonesian island of Sumatra from Malaysia.

The racing boats will need to dodge slow-moving fishing vessels and all kinds of debris in the much-polluted waters.

Meanwhile, Team Vestas Wind, the Danish boat that was grounded during leg two from Cape Town and Abu Dhabi on Nov. 29, was heading for Italy for a rebuild.

The target is to return the badly damaged vessel to the race for the final two legs from Lisbon in June.

The 38,739 nautical mile, nine-month race is held every three years and visits 11 ports around the world and every continent.

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Chinese boat stretches lead in Volvo Ocean Race

Costa Concordia Captain Bullish At Trial

Francesco Schettino, the captain of the doomed cruise ship Costa Concordia, has fiercely defended his navigational skills as he faced cross-examination for the first time in his trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship.

In a spirited performance punctuated by jokes and constant hand gestures in which he frequently interrupted the prosecutor, Schettino tried to argue he followed procedure during the Costa Concordia’s fatal collision, rather than steering recklessly.

Schettino smashed the Costa Concordia into rocks off the Italian island of Giglio in January 2012 during an attempted “sail past”.

The holed vessel grounded and partially capsized in shallow water, forcing 4,200 passengers and crew to flee, with the loss of 32 lives.

Speaking at his trial in Grosseto in Tuscany, Schettino denied that he had organised the sail past to impress Domnica Cermontan, a Moldavian dancer who was working on the ship and has told the court she was having an affair with the married captain. 

“I didn’t do it as a favour to Cermontan,” Schettino said under questioning in Grosseto’s theatre, which has been converted into a court room for the trial.

When she entered the bridge, Ms Cermontan stood at the side the room, far from Schettino, he said.

In a combative performance, during which he often challenged the questioning of prosecutor Alessandro Leopizzi, Schettino said he had sought to “kill three birds with one stone” by undertaking the sail past.

He was doing a favour to a ship’s official and paying tribute to a former cruise captain who lived on the island of Giglio, while making the cruise more attractive to passengers, he said.

Asked about the number of people on the bridge as he took the command before the crash, Schettino argued he had always fought to keep numbers on the bridge down.

The court played a recording of the voices on the deck in the minutes leading up to the collision, during which Schettino is heard on the phone asking the former captain living on Giglio if there was enough water to sail as close as one fifth of a nautical mile from the coast.

When asked by the prosecutor why he asked that, since the ship was due to sail no closer than half a mile from the rocks, Schettino said he was not being serious.

Schettino has previously blamed the crash on the maps he was given to navigate with, and claimed the Indonesian helmsman on the bridge did not understand his instructions.

After attending the early hearings at his trial last year, Schettino has avoided the trial for five months, reportedly preparing for his performance, which is expected to run into Wednesday.

“If he wasn’t so sure of himself he would not have agreed to be questioned at the trial,” said Schettino’s lawyer Domenico Pepe before the hearing.

“He has been studying the court papers and is here to highlight all the points in his favour which have not emerged yet in court.”

Schettino, who was dubbed Captain Coward after he was accused of abandoning the stricken ship before passengers had fled, has remained a notorious celebrity in Italy, and has spent this week denying rumours he was due to appear on Italy’s version of I Am A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.

No longer under house arrest, Schettino has addressed a group of students at a Rome university about stress control, despite allegations he panicked after the collision and failed to manage the evacuation.

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Costa Concordia Captain Bullish At Trial

Costa Concordia Completes Its Final Journey

The Costa Concordia has completed its final journey, after being towed into the Italian port of Genoa to be broken up and scrapped.

The cruise liner, around twice the size of the Titanic, struck rocks and capsized in January 2012 with more than 4,000 people on board.

The tragedy claimed 32 lives.

The damaged hull had been towed from the disaster site off the Tuscan island of Giglio to the northern port after a four-day, 175 mile (280km) journey.

The salvage operation, the biggest ever attempted, is expected to cost in the region of $2bn (£1.17bn).

“We can finally breathe a sigh of relief,” Italy’s environment minister Gian Luca Galletti said.

There were fears the damaged hull would break up under the strain and spill toxic waste into Europe’s biggest marine sanctuary, but these were unfounded.

The 114,500-tonne liner arrived overnight and weighed anchor around two nautical miles (3.6 miles) off shore.

Engineers then attached it to a number of tugboats, which manoeuvred into Voltri port at 11am UK time.

Curious locals gathered near the port on the outskirts of the city from first light to catch a glimpse of the battered ship.

The delicate operation of securing the ship is expected to be completed this afternoon.

Once the Costa Concordia is fastened in place, interior furnishings and fittings will be stripped out in order to make it light enough to tow into the scrapping area, where it will be split into three parts for dismantling.

More than 80% of it is expected to be recycled or reused.

Between 40,000 and 50,000 tonnes of steel will be melted down and reused for construction.

Undamaged copper wiring, plumbing, plastics, machinery and furniture will be recovered and sold on.

Any personal belongings recovered will be returned, while items such as the ship’s piano, which was being played as the liner struck rocks, could end up in a museum.

Another task will be to search for the body of Indian waiter Russel Rebello, whose remains were never found and may have been trapped in a previously inaccessible part of the vessel.

The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, is currently on trial for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the vessel before all passengers had evacuated.

The 53-year-old, who is fighting the charges, is accused of deliberately altering the course of the Concordia in order to carry out a sail-by salute of the island to impress local residents and passengers.

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Costa Concordia Completes Its Final Journey