The Maldives are one of the idyllic spots in the world, and have had two visits from the Volvo Ocean Race
Months of secret and meticulous planning reached the perfect conclusion on Saturday when the Volvo Ocean Race fleet safely arrived by ship in the secret haven, which has now been named.
The port had until now been kept a secret as an unprecedented measure taken by organisers on expert advice against the risk of piracy in the Indian Ocean.
The secret haven is the port of Malé in the Maldives.
The decision was originally taken in August to transport the fleet by ship from the Maldives to Sharjah in the northern Emirates and back again, splitting legs two and three.
All the teams and Volvo Ocean Race staff signed a non-disclosure agreement to keep the destination secret in case of attack.
The boats were being unloaded for the final time on Saturday, an operation that is expected to take around six hours in total.
'I’m glad it’s all over now,' admitted Race Director Jack Lloyd. 'This has taken an awful lot of work from all sides with the teams co-operating really well together.'
The ship carrying the fleet left Sharjah on January 15 following the Abu Dhabi stopover and has taken just under a week to reach the Maldivian capital which is used by hundreds of thousands of tourists a year as a stop-off point before travelling on to holiday islands nearby.
The ship, the Happy Diamond, arrived under clear blue skies and calm seas before going through the usual customs checks.
Unloading of the boats started from around 1130 local time (0730 UTC) and PUMA’s Mar Mostro was the first to be successfully returned to the water.
'I’m expecting it to be relatively straightforward today,' said the ship’s loadmaster who asked not to be named.
'We have done this – on and off several times now – and every time it has gone very well. This is a very precious cargo.
'We are in the business of transporting yachts around the world but never before involving a major race like this. It’s unprecedented.'
The skippers and their shore crews boarded the ship to watch the unloading operation that was carried out using giant cranes.
Under the rules of the race, only the crews were able to make any last minute fixes to the boats before they return to action at 0800 UTC tomorrow for the second stage of Leg 3 to Sanya in China.