Dubai: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will look to carry on their form from their home races in the UAE when the Volvo Ocean Race fleet resume battle tomorrow.
The Azzam crew collected maximum points from the Abu Dhabi in-port race and the subsequent sprint up the coast to Sharjah, moving them to within five points of fourth-placed Puma Ocean Racing.
The fleet was transported from Sharjah to a safe haven in the Indian Ocean in a bid to negate the threat of piracy, but they are now ready to race again as they set sail for stage two of the third leg to the Chinese city of Sanya.
They will race for more than 3,000 nautical miles across the Indian Ocean, through the Malacca Strait and into the South China Sea.
The six-strong fleet — now reunited with Team Sanya after they were forced to suspend racing between Cape Town and Abu Dhabi — will have to tackle monsoon winds, endure painfully long stretches of upwind sailing through rough seas and dodge container ships as they pick their way through some of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
Volvo Ocean Race chief meteorologist Gonzalo Infante said this stage could prove costly for any team not 100 per cent focused on the task.
"It is very tricky, you can lose everything you gained in the Indian Ocean with one bad decision or lack of attention in here," he said.
"It's unlikely that the yachts make big gains, but you can certainly make big losses."
The final stage will see the teams race upwind for up to a week through the shallow South China Sea in potentially boat-breaking conditions.
"They are likely to be beating for one week in conditions that are very hard on the boat," Infante said.
"The waves could reach four to five metres, and could be very steep."
The course is tipped to take the teams around two weeks to complete, with a finish in Sanya in early February.
Just seven points separate overall leaders Team Telefónica and second-placed Camper, with Groupama in third another 20 points back.
1 Team Telefónica 71pts
2 Camper with Emirates Team NZ 64
3 Groupama Sailing Team 51
4 Puma Ocean Racing by Berg 36
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 31
6 Team Sanya 11