At 1510 UTC, Team Vestas Wind informed Race Control that their boat was grounded on the Cargados Carajos Shoals, 200nm north east of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. All nine crew abandoned the boat and entered the two liferafts which were anchored to the reef as the boat was beaten on rocks of the reef. The boat had broken both rudders was taking on water through the after sections.
Around midnight, the team led by skipper Chris Nicholson (AUS) abandoned the boat and then waded, knee-deep through the sea to a dry spot on the reef from where they were rescued by a coastguard RIB at daybreak at around 0230 UTC. They were then transported to the tiny islet of Íle du Sud, part of Cargados Carajos Shoals, which is also known as St. Brandon and situated some 430 kilometres to the north-east of Mauritius.During the emergency and through the night, Team Alvimedica had stood by in the area and prepared their boat for the potential of taking the Team Vestas Wind crew aboard their boat.
Team Alvimedica has now been stood down and the team has returned to the race.
Here’s a short video from aboard Team Alvimedica as they stood by and coordinated with rescue services
Volvo CEO Knut Frostad explains the situation
Here are the official updates on the situation.
“They reported that they were stuck on the reef, they were all safe, all the crew were in good health, no one was injured, but they had broken both rudders on the boat,” said Knut Frostad.
“We have also learned about some damage to the stern compartment which has had an ingress of water, and that’s the first information we had.”
As the information dripped through, the rest of the fleet was also informed, and the reaction – followed by relief – began to flood in.
“The good thing is that nobody’s injured – everybody’s safe,” says Roberto Bermudez de Castro, or ‘Chuny’, onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
“And when I say ‘good thing’, I mean it’s incredible nobody’s injured, with the boat broken against land, enough to abandon it.”
Over on Dongfeng Race Team, bowman Kevin Escoffier was hit hard by the news.
“I’m sad,” he says. “I’m sad for them, and I’m just imagining the situation if I was in the same one on our boat. It’s very sad, very very sad.”
Indeed, his boat could have quite easily endured the same fate – they all could. The Franco-Chinese team only avoided the reef themselves with a last minute gybe.
“It’s terrible for them, and terrible for the fleet and the race,” says skipper Charles Caudrelier.
“We are offshore in the middle of nowhere, and on the chart, if you don’t go on the maximum zoom you can’t see anything.”
“There are shallow spots, and plenty 200m deeper – I’m not surprised you can miss them,” he adds.
“When I was looking at the navigation a few days ago, checking these things, it took a long time for me to find them.”
All-female boat Team SCA was at the back of the fleet when they received an email to say that the incident had occurred.
“We’ve offered assistance and we’re awaiting news on whether they’d like our assistance, but we’ve also taken an even wider berth and getting ourselves ready to go round and keep going,” explains navigator Libby Greenhalgh, in the dark of the galley.
“I hope they’re all okay, I’m sure they are. I hope nobody got injured, but you don’t normally run aground at 15 knots so there could be a few bumps and bruises.”
Her team mate, Annie Lush, echoed those sentiments. “It’s really sad,” she said, having just woken up to the news.
“It’s quite scary for them now I’m sure and I just really hope that they can do this safely. It’s tricky, it’s quite a big sea, it’s dark, and Alvimedica have gone to help.”
In a slice of luck, Team Alvimedica weren’t too far from the Danish boat when it grounded – and Race Control was able to arrange for them to divert in support of Team Vestas Wind.
Skipper Charlie Enright was in a sombre mood as his orange boat anchored close to the incident.
“We’ve put ourselves near the reef in a place where we can communicate with them via VHF and we’re checking in with them on a regular schedule, monitoring their situation. We’re prepared to help in any way we can,” he says.
“We can’t see anything. It’s about 2 hours until sun rise. We can see that they have their liferafts deployed and we can see the light flashing but that’s about it.”
He continues. “Everyone is trying to keep their heads about them, we’re in the watch system still, it’s going to be a long night, and who knows what will come of it in the morning, so we’re trying to keep things as business as usual as we can.”
“We’ve taken some safety precautions and prepared the boat for potentially having some more people aboard for a while.”
So what next? Well, Knut adds, it’s complicated – but everything’s stable, and under control.
“I think the challenge with the current situation is that, first of all, it’s in a very remote part of the planet, far away from ships, ports and services,” he adds.
“The closest large civilisation is in Mauritius which is more than 200 nm from this location.”
“That complicates the situation. That said, we have a good weather forecast for the next 24 hours, the wind is no more than 10-12 knots and is dropping.”
He pauses. “However it’s obviously a complex and serious situation for Team Vestas Wind and for the race, and we’re monitoring it very carefully.”
UPDATE: 0045 UTC
Team Vestas Wind reported to Race Management that all nine crew have safely abandoned the boat. The life rafts are anchored to a dry section of the reef, where the crew awaits daylight.
At daylight, they intend to board a RIB from the local coastguard to be taken ashore on a nearby island or join Team Alvimedica. All nine are uninjured.
We will continue to give updates on the situation as we receive more information.
*An earlier statement carried an incorrect time stamp of 0845 instead of 2045 UTC. We apologise for any confusion.
UPDATE: 2145 UTC
Team Vestas Wind reported that they had now deployed two life rafts as the stern of the boat was being beaten on rocks of the reef. The bow is pointing out to sea.
The team added that they were keeping the life rafts some 15 metres from the boat, which the crew could reach if necessary.
There were no plans to do this yet but the life rafts had been deployed now as they may not be able to do so later.
The current plan remains to abandon the boat at daylight with the assistance of the coastguard at Íle du Sud as well as Team Alvimedica.
We will update you further as more details become available.
UPDATE: 2030 UTC
Team Alvimedica has now arrived at the site, is in radio contact with Team Vestas Wind and standing by to assist Team Vestas Wind, waiting for daylight.
Race Control is in contact with Team Vestas Wind every hour. The situation is currently stable on board and the crew plans to remain on board until daylight.
There is also contact established with a coastguard station on Isle de Sud, approximately 1.5 km from the boat, which has a RIB available.
The plan is for this vessel to assist in abandoning the boat as soon as possible after daylight.
Both rudders have been reported broken by the Team Vestas Wind crew. The team has also reported water ingress in the stern compartment.
The Volvo Ocean 65 has watertight bulkheads in the bow and the stern. The remaining part of the boat is intact including the rig.
We will update as soon as we have further information.
At 1510 UTC, Saturday, November 29, Team Vestas Wind informed Race Control that their boat was grounded on the Cargados Carajos Shoals, Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. Fortunately, no one has been injured.
We are in contact with the boat to establish the extent of the damage and ensure the crew is given the support needed to enable it to deal with the situation.
The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Reunion Island is aware of the problem.
The crew has informed us that it is currently grounded on a reef but nobody is injured. Volvo Ocean Race and Team Vestas Wind’s top priority is to make sure the crew is safe.
The crew has informed Race organisers that it now plans to abandon the boat as soon as possible after daybreak.
Team Alvimedica and two other vessels are in contact with Team Vestas Wind to assist.
We will give you more information as it becomes available.