Volvo Ocean Race: Armed ship protects yachts from pirates

Five yachts in the Volvo Ocean Race have been transported on an armed ship through part of the Indian Ocean because of the threat of piracy.

They will be set down off the coast of the United Arab Emirates before a one-day sprint to the finish in Abu Dhabi.

Puma Ocean Racing's British skipper Ken Read said: "Sometimes the real world gets in the way of our little race."

It is the first time that the 15-tonne racing yachts have had to be lifted onto a ship in open waters.

With their 31m masts still in place, the yachts were hoisted up and placed in custom-built cradles on board the ship at an undisclosed "safe haven" port after setting sail on leg two from Cape Town, South Africa, on 11 December.

They are expected to arrive at a location off the coast of Sharjah in about six days.

Britain's Neal McDonald from Telefónica said: "It [piracy] ranges from people trying to bum cigarettes off you and a bottle of water to ransom.

"And I think although our lives aren't worth very much, I think if they see a big sponsor's name, which they recognise or which they have seen somewhere else, they might see that as an attractive target."

Team Telefonica, who won the first leg from Alicante to Cape Town, were also first to the undisclosed loading location on the first stage of leg two to lead the standings by seven points.

The prestigious race started on 29 October in Spain and will finish in Galway, Ireland in July after stopovers in Cape Town, Abu Dhabi (UAE), Sanya (China), Auckland (New Zealand), Itajaí (Brazil), Miami (USA), Lisbon (Portugal) and Lorient (France).