Running aground shortly after leaving Marstrand, Bouwe Bekking's team has suspended racing


The needle match for second between Bouwe Bekking’s Telefonica Blue and Ken Read’s Puma seems to have been handed to the American skipper and his crew after Bekking’s team ran aground at 16 knots shortly after the start of the penultimate leg to Stockholm.

This is the second time the team has run aground shortly after the start, the last time was out of Qingdao, an incident which resulted in a claim for redress. Redrerss was not given.

This time the chances of a similar action being out forward seem slim given Bekking’s admission shortly after the incident. “It is clearly our own mistake of course, we thought we were to leeward [of the rock] and clear of it and we smacked it right on the head,” he said.

This is also the second time that Bekking’s final sprint for the finish has ended in disaster. In the last race Movistar was abandoned and sunk in the Western Approaches after a structural failure in the keel area.

Here’s how the news was reported on the official VOR web site.

Telefonica Blue ran aground on a rock shortly after the start of Leg 9 in Marstrand and has since served a two-hour penalty for suspending racing.

In fact, it took the crew two hours to free the stricken boat with the help of pliot vessels and support craft.

Bouwe Bekking and his men have returned to Marstrand to have the boat hauled out for a full assessment of the damage.

Bekking, who’s boat suffered a similar mishap at the start of Leg 5 out of Qingdao, was understandably crestfallen by the setback. He explained what happened.

“We were sailing along under a Code Zero and a staysail and we had cleared the leeward mark by roughly two miles, doing about 16-17 knots and basically hit a rock straight on,” he said.

Asked whether the incident, a collision with a 1.5 metre rock, was down to a charting problem, he added: “It is clearly our own mistake of course, we thought we were to leeward [of the rock] and clear of it and we smacked it right on the head.

“In that sense PUMA was right behind us and had a to make a big alteration of course as well. S*!t happens but it shouldn’t happen but … clearly a mistake.”

As for the damage, Bekking said that was unclear until a full inspection had been made though they did take on water following damage to the port daggerboard. Early indications are not encouraging.

“It doesn’t look that good. We took quite a lot of water on board. The canard has been pushed through the daggerboard case which is where all the water was coming in from.

“We just have to assess the rest of the damage. We can see that we broke one of the rudders off. We have to see how the bulb will look and the keel. The good thing is that the keel is still there so the boats are very very strong. If you hit at 25-30 kph normally a boat would sink so thank you Volvo for a good rule.”

As for the lengthy battle to free the boat from the rock, Bekking added: “We tried different options, we pulled a winch off, the co-ordination is always very difficult. We have to thank the Coast Guard, the pilots and the police here, they have been really really helpful.

“They managed to pull us off and get us safely to the harbour so a big thanks to them.”

In the short term, there is no prospect of points on this leg. And in looking ahead, if the damage is as severe as is suggested, it may be game over in the battle with PUMA for second place overall.

“Yes of course it is a disaster and everybody realises that. The most sad person is SciFi [Simon Fisher] . I don’t know how many thousand times he has said sorry. That’s how it is, we are a team we will come on top of it again. Yeah, most likely second place is gone.”