The BigLift ship is reported to have loaded the 21.5m, 15t yachts, fully rigged with their 31.5m masts, near a key US Navy base on the British-controlled coral atoll of Diego Garcia, 1800 miles east of the African pirate coast.
Off the Sharjah coast in the United Arab Emirates, the first yacht to leave her cradle on the razor-wired deck of the Dutch lift ship was the Spanish yacht Telefónica, winner of the previous leg of the race from Cape Town to the "safe haven".
Close behind, racing at 17 knots in the next 98-mile sprint leg of the race to Abu Dhabi were Camper Emirates Team New Zealand, Groupama 4 France, Puma skippered by the American Ken Read, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skippered by Ian Walker from Southampton and the Chinese - Irish entry Team Sanya, skippered by Mike Sanderson from New Zealand who has twice skippered winners in the round the world race.
Six yachtsmen had climbed aboard the ship during the night off Sharjah to repair a hull crack on Groupama 4.
Team Sanya had been forced to repair rig damage in Madagascar. Puma were dismasted in the South Atlantic and rescued by a heavy lift ship in Tristan da Cunha. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing lost their mast on the first day of the first leg from Alicante in Spain.
DHL Deutsche Post, the world’s biggest transport firm, are Volvo’s logistics partner for the race, handling the global movement of gear in 152 shipping containers and tackling the Atlantic Ocean rescue of Puma and the Indian Ocean anti-piracy "stealth" move.
Reinier Vens, their Dutch race project director, said, "From the starting point in Alicante, Spain, to the finish in Galway, Ireland, DHL will be responsible for air, sea, and land transportation of the highly valuable equipment".
DHL uses identical pairs of ocean freight containers on a leapfrog principle. Each team uses its first container to deliver the equipment needed for the first leg of the race. Their second container awaits them at the departure port for the second leg. The empty first container is meanwhile re-loaded and shipped on ahead from the starting port to the starting port for the third leg of the race.
Race director Jack Lloyd from New Zealand and the Norwegian race CEO for Volvo, Knut Frostad, tackled the Indian Ocean security problem with Dryad Maritime Intelligence, the European Union Naval Force Somalia [EUNAVFOR], the British Maritime Trade Operations agency [UKMTO] and the Maritime Security Centre, Horn of Africa [MSCHOA].