The movistar crew told of their rescue experience at yesterday's press conference 24/5/06

Yesterday’s press conference with movistar took place at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth. Following is the transcript that provides insight into what happened when movistar’s keel problem forced an evacuation of the crew to ABN AMRO TWO.

Pedro Campos – Syndicate Head
Good afternoon. The reason we are here today is down to the seamanship and help that we have received and I would like thank Team ABN AMRO and particularly the crew of ABN AMRO TWO.

I would also like to thank our crew because they were pushing to the very limit and doing their best. Their commitment to the project has been more than 100% and it had been proved through different moments through the race but especially in the last hours. And also I would like to thank the organisation of the Volvo Ocean Race because throughout the night they have been in touch with us and trying to do their best to achieve what we wanted overall which it to get all the crew safe. I was in Madrid in communication with the directors of ABN AMRO and following situation minute by minute

Skipper Bouwe Bekking on the position of movistar
Right now we actually don’t have a position on the boat. The last position was more than a day ago and we had a beacon but that disappeared at ten o’clock on Sunday night so that’s very bad news. The weather conditions improved today so much that we are able to send out a plane so we can get a visual sight on the area where the last position was known. There’s an aeroplane right now on the way. The skies are relatively clear and the seas have slowed down a little bit and there is now six to seven metres of swell over there. So the boat will be pretty hard to spot but this is the first thing we are doing. A search and rescue vessel is on standby so as soon as the boat is spotted, it will take off and try to salvage her.

I hope the boat is still upright. I really have my doubts about it because of the damage and the amount of water that was coming in at such a rate and that was in quite fair conditions. Yet when the whole thing started it was 25 knots, and when ABN AMRO TWO picked us up it was 10 – 15 knots. But the seas were getting higher and higher and especially with the forecast and we know there have been 10 metre waves and fifty knots plus wind. So I have serious doubts the boat will be still be afloat. If not I think the keel may have fallen off and the boat flipped upside down.

Bouwe Bekking on the decision to abandon movistar
First I would like to really thank the movistar organisation in supporting the decision I have taken.

It a huge disappointment especially for myself as I wanted to win this race and I think it was the same for all the guys behind me. It’s just been fantastic during the entire campaign with movistar’s support and as well as a special thanks to the ABN TWO guys. They were in a very tough situation and they did a fantastic job to get us safely here.

I don’t think we will race this boat again even if we get her back. Some of us will come to Rotterdam, because there are some containers over there and of course we will show up at the final prize giving in Gothenburg to show our respect for all the other competitors in this race. And hopefully we will be back as all of us are sailors.

Bouwe Bekking on the difference in safety gear from when Drum capsized in 1985
I think the difference first of all is we are 21 years further on and the sport has become so much more professional and all the procedures which are in place make this sport as safe as possible. In 1985 I did the Fastnet Race on Phillips Innovator and so I know exactly what the differences are and there were no safety precautions. We had a life raft but that was about it. We didn’t have any training we didn’t know what was going on. We basically didn’t have a clue and although Drum was maybe one of the most professional crews at that time, I think they were very lucky to survive. Of course I have had a lot of experience over the last 20 years. And we had some of our ordeals on this race as well. Our crew was very well drilled but of course I personally had to make the final call to abandon ship.

Bouwe Bekking on the emotions of leaving movistar
It’s pretty tough. I had the hardest time last night when ABN came in because then I realised that these were the guys that brought us home.

I have been working on this project for three years. All the other guys have been working on it for two years as well and it’s really hard to make it successful. We’ve had a lot of down times but we’ve always come back but the moment we stepped off movistar I realised that this was not something we could come back from. This was the end of the race. So when it sinks in I will think about it a lot more in the next couple of days, but it will hit like a hammer.

Bouwe Bekking on the preparation of movistar
As everybody knows we have sailed half way round the world before even the race started, but we never had any serious problems. Only blowing out a pad eye [a small deck fitting] or something like that. We were 100% confident in the boat and in the first leg we had some structural issues and we had to retire from leg one. Then on the second leg we had some ram issues then everyone knows we had quite a nice leg into Wellington where we actually had a win and in general we were going very fast and I think that the boat was very competitive but we didn’t score a lot of points basically because of all the retirements.

The current situation even with all the retirements and the problems we have had, we are currently still in third place. So we can look at ourselves and look the guy in the eye knowing that we have achieved quite a lot. Coming back to the damage, we knew as well that we had some issues just before Cape Horn where the boat nearly sank and that is one of the things that comes back in our minds when on Saturday we had the problems with the keel again. What do you do at that stage? What do we do when it gets really bad and the pumps can’t keep up anymore?

We had a long chat in Baltimore and everyone knew that the Atlantic can be very tough and we were 100% confident when we left New York for this leg. And at the moment it happened, everybody looked at each other and said ‘here we go again’.

There were no hard feelings in that sense it was just a matter of getting the boat home and when I came to that final moment, we had a lot of correspondence with race headquarters as well as with ABN TWO just in case the decision was made that we get off.

So all in all everything went very well. It was very relaxed and we have the entire procedure on video. You’ll see from there that everything went very smoothly and professionally, but once I decided to abandon ship I gave all the responsibilities in that sense to Sebastien (Josse) on ABN TWO because we were in their hands. And the communication was really good.

First of all we were all feeling quite relieved and I can speak for myself saying that when I jumped into the life raft I knew that was really it and that was the moment we were really leaving the ship and I felt really happy I made that decision at that stage. So when I got on to ABN TWO, my first thing was to go over to Sebastien and all the guys individually and thank them as we understood as a group it was very hard for them to come back for us in the situation that they were in and we were very grateful to see our old mates back even though they are younger than us.

And it was a very welcome feeling. We could see in the first couple of hours when we got on they were very down and not very happy but during the next 18 hours I saw them cheering up as a crew and we were a little bit of a distraction for them. So I think it worked out very nicely for them. We could see how energetic and how good the team is and we spoke afterwards when we drove back from Falmouth to Portsmouth in a bus.

Stuart Bannatyne, watch captain on sailing back to Portsmouth
Basically when we boarded ABN AMRO TWO Sebastien made it pretty clear to us that they wanted to carry on sailing the boat and we could help out a little bit by making them coffee and the occasional meal, but they wanted to keep their watch system going and sail the boat and obviously I expected that. I know a few of our guys spent some time on deck enjoying sailing with these guys, doing a bit of grinding now and again and helping out but basically those guys sailed there own boat and carried on their own watch system and we had a little watch system within ourselves to share out our sleeping bags and quarters below.

Chris Nicholson, watch captain
I wouldn’t say it was a relief to see movistar go, more disappointment that she finally got the better of us. We went through a lot of hard times with this boat and a lot of breakages and we always bounced back, but obviously this was one we couldn’t come back from.

Bouwe Bekking on the Volvo Open 70
I think we are still a development class and the other thing you have to remember is we were the first Farr boat on the water and if you compare it with boats like the tri-marans I think there are far less disasters in these boats and I still have the general feeling that they are a safe boat even though our boat didn’t make it. It is a development class and even on ABN TWO the boat had structural problems before the race started, they implemented them on the second boat and then on the first boat and unfortunately we didn’t have that chance. The Farr office made some differences to the other Farr boats built after ours so you see they have less problems than us.

Mike Joubert, bowman
It was a unique opportunity for all of us to be able to sail a completely different concept boat (ABN AMRO TWO). It’s always an interesting learning experience from different people especially when we have been together as long as we have. We haven’t really sailed with anyone else and it was a great learning experience for us.. Looking at their sail set up and how they sail the boat. It was a big eye opener personally.

Bouwe Bekking
I personally hope that we can keep sailing on these boats in future Volvo Ocean Races. I think all the sailors – at least myself – love these boats. They are fantastic to sail. One of the reasons we always come back to this type of sailing is because we love the ocean, but also we like fast sailing and we like the company of all the guys so I personally hope we will stay with the Volvo Open 70. We know a lot of things have happened but designers are not stupid, they are all thinking and a lot of people are communicating with each other to see what we can do to make the boats safer for the future. So, even if the race is in three years time we have enough development time and feedback from all the teams that I think next time we will have a second generation class and we won’t have any problems anymore.

Chris Nicholson
I’ve always said I would do the race again and that hasn’t changed at any point. And, believe it, I’ve actually enjoyed this race as it’s come to it’s conclusion. I hope I will be back.

Mike Joubert
These boats are incredibly brutal boats to sail, mentally and physically and, yes, emotionally. And there are a lot of hard times. As everybody knows if I had the opportunity to sail with this crew again, I wouldn’t think twice.

Bouwe Bekking
I never say never and as everybody knows this is my fifth race and I will do my best to do a sixth one as well.