Team Vestas Wind navigator Wouter Verbraak sacked as Volvo Ocean Race team completes its review into how the yacht was wrecked on a remote reef

Team Vestas Wind have sacked navigator Wouter Verbraak as part of the Volvo Ocean Race crew. Verbraak was the navigator when the yacht ran up on a reef in the Indian Ocean on 29 November.

Skipper Chris Nicholson and the other members of the crew have been retained, to help with the rebuild of the yacht in Italy and to prepare to rejoin the race for the final leg or legs in early summer.

The announcement comes as the official report commissioned by the Volvo Ocean Race into the incident is being prepared by Australian Rear Admiral Chris Oxenbould (Rtd), former deputy chief of the Australian Navy and chairman of the Yachting Australia National Safety Committee with (among others) ocean navigational expert Stan Honey.

But this prior decision would seem to make where Team Vestas are placing the blame.

Verbraak himself shouldered responsibility in the days immediately after the wreck, saying so on his own Facebook page, but the comment was taken down the same day.

The VOR release today reads: ‘A statement issued early on Friday said: “Chris Nicholson has completed his review, together with the lead sponsor Vestas and sub-sponsor Powerhouse, and the decision has been made that Wouter Verbraak will no longer continue as navigator of the Vestas Wind.

“Team Vestas Wind will be joined by a new navigator in time for the Lisbon stopover and Leg 8 start in June. Team Vestas Wind would like to thank Wouter for his service and wish him well in the future.”

Verbraak, in a statement, added: “I am very sad to announce that I have been notified that I will not continue with Team Vestas Wind.

“I respect Chris Nicholson’s decision and wish the team the very, very best of luck with the hard work ahead of them in the Volvo Ocean Race. I would have wanted to help the team getting back in the race again and contribute to their success in the last parts of the race.

“On a personal note I am looking forward to the new sailing challenges that are coming up for me in the months ahead and want to keep sharing the passion that I have for this great sport with you all.

“Someone recently told me: ‘Life is not about how many breaths you take, but about the moments that take your breath away’. I am looking forward to the new breathless moments to come. Ocean racing tends to offer many of them.”

The remaining shore and sailing crew will continue to work as integral members of Team Vestas Wind, and will use their skills to assist Persico in the boat repair process.

They will also support the team at stopovers before Lisbon to keep Team Vestas Wind at the centre of race activities. The crew were grounded on a reef near St Brandon archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The boat was badly damaged but was retrieved just before Christmas.

It is expected to arrive on a Maersk Line ship in Genoa, Italy on Sunday and then be transported with the help of race sponsors GAC Pindar to Persico’s boatyard in Bergamo for the rebuild to start in earnest.

>> Do you think it was right that Verbraak was removed? Let us know your view in the comments below – Elaine>>

Read more about what happened to Team Vestas in our news report here.

See video footage of the moments before and after the boat hit the reef here.

For a full account of the wreck, what happened and what it means for ordinary navigators, see the special feature in our latest issue.

  • Henri Eisenhardt

    Ocean Racing.
    When u are racing day and night, u are normally changing Watch after 4 hours.
    U brief the next man on Watch of dangers and Development in the weather pattern.
    The man going on Watch, was the skipper Chris Nicholson, and we have read that he spend upto 3 hours at the navigation table before the disaster. Apart from Electronic chart plotters all yacht has an echosounder. We amateurs have a sonar also, yes I bought one from Echopilot in 1996 and had no problems in the Caribbean. Vestas Wind was sailing at 19 knots, when the deapth changed from 3000 meters to zero. So why did Chris Nicholson not set an alarm at 100 m at the echosounder, and maybe later at 50 m??
    My opinion is that the skipper should be sacked, not the Dutch navigator at sleep.
    When the skipper came into the cockpit after the first grouding, he asked the crews to tack from port to starboard, so they sailed further up onto the coral reef. He did not know where the were!!
    Thousand of long distance sailors are crossing the Idean Ocean every year, luckely most of them are amateurs.!!
    Henri Eisenhardt, Denmark

  • Aileen Dingus

    Do I WISH he hadn’t been sacked? Yes. Do I understand WHY he was sacked? Yes. As much as we’d like to think that the Volvo is about teamwork and camaraderie, in the end, it is all about sponsor money, and sadly, Wouter cost his sponsor a LOT of money.
    It’s also common when “disaster” strikes to find someone to shoulder the blame. The
    Vestas Wind reefing wasn’t the fault of Wouter alone, but as navigator he does shoulder that responsibility.
    When I emailed him, I suggested that he and I band together with Roy Heiner, and form a “We Got Kicked Out Of Our VOR Campaigns” corporation. I think we’d be smashing
    together. 😉