The route of the Volvo Ocean Race through Asian territories has have proven important for the commercial components of the race, and the variable weather and currents along these legs offer significant strategic challenges to the competitors.
But the Asian legs, included in three editions of the race, are also known for their sizable fishing fleets, mostly small boats with limited resources that are not well prepared to protect their assets from 65-foot racing boats that cross their paths every few years.
We asked Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad what actions the race administration took to protect the racing boats from entanglements, and to save the fishing fleets from hardship that the loss of equipment would cause. Here is Knut’s response…
You are right that the Asian legs have fishing fleets as one of many obstacles to deal with although this is not an exclusive problem for those legs only. The European, Moroccan and South American coasts also have similar challenges. Even in the U.S., there are fishing fleets and installations to navigate around or through. It is a hazard that every round-the-world race faces.
In advance of every leg, we run meetings with the skippers and navigators discussing each leg and discuss the particular concerns of each stage leg. A key part of that process is to address hazards such as fishing fleets, oil rig installations, shipping, piracy, ice, weather, etc.
As the basic principle of the race, we want to give the sailors the maximum freedom to navigate each leg to enable them to make their best judgment and decisions when they are at sea. If we receive advice from our external advisors, such as was the case was with piracy on Leg 2 and 3, we will add exclusion zones, although that is not an action we undertake without careful consideration as it may lead to other consequences as well.
The presence of fishing fleets is discussed with the skippers in these meetings to ensure all are aware of where they are located. Obviously it is not in our or any team’s interest to interfere with the fishing fleets in any way and certainly not to with the consequence that any fishing equipment is lost. However, I would add that most of the incidents that our boats have with fishing equipment is when the nets and lines are either discarded, not marked by flags or other identification methods that would make them easier to avoid.
On Leg 3 we have multiple exclusion zones, also for example on the Vietnam coast, primarily as a response to what the sailors have highlighted so that they don’t sail too close to oil installations, high traffic areas, and fishing vessels. That said, there are a lot of fishing activities offshore throughout this leg, in fact, across the whole South China Sea.
Asian Legs, 2014-15 edition
Leg 2: Cape Town, South Africa to Abu Dhabi, UAE
Leg 3: Abu Dhabi, UAE to Sanya, China
Leg 4: Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand