In the final stages of Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race, Vestas 11th Hour Racing was involved in a serious collision with a fishing boat, which resulted in the death of a member of the fishing vessel crew.

In the final stages of Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race last night, Vestas 11th Hour Racing was involved in a serious collision 30 miles south-east of Hong Kong on Friday, 19 January. The Volvo 65 collided with a fishing boat, which resulted in the death of a member of the fishing vessel crew.

A statement issued by race organisers this morning read:

“The Volvo Ocean Race is deeply saddened to inform that the collision between Vestas 11th Hour Racing, a team competing in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, and a fishing vessel has resulted in a fatality of a crew of the fishing vessel.

On behalf of the Volvo Ocean Race and Vestas 11th Hour Racing, we offer our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the deceased.

The incident occurred approximately 30 miles from the finish of Leg 4, outside of Hong Kong waters. Race Control at Volvo Ocean Race headquarters was informed of the collision by the team moments after it happened at approximately 17:23 UTC on Friday January 19, 2018 (01:23 local time on Saturday morning).

The Vestas 11th Hour Racing team, none of whom were injured in the collision, issued a Mayday distress call on behalf of the other vessel, alerting the Hong Kong Marine Rescue Coordination Centre (HKMRCC) and undertook a search and rescue mission.

HKMRCC informed Race Control that a commercial vessel in the area was able to rescue nine of the crew and that a tenth crew member was taken by helicopter to hospital. HKMRCC has since confirmed the death of the air-lifted crew member.

Volvo Ocean Race and Vestas 11th Hour Racing are now focused on providing immediate support to those affected by this incident.

All involved organisations are co-operating with the authorities and are fully supporting the ongoing investigation.”

Vestas 11th Hour returning to Hong Kong following the collision

At the time of the collision Vestas 11th Hour Racing was racing in around 20 knots of wind in 2nd place in the final stages of Leg 4, from Melbourne to Hong Kong.

We understand that after Vestas 11th Hour Racing collided with the fishing vessel, which then sank, nine members of the fishing crew were recovered by a nearby powerboat. A tenth member of the fishing crew was recovered by Vestas 11th Hour Racing, and was unresponsive. They were airlifted from Vestas 11th Hour Racing to a Hong Kong hospital.

Dongfeng Race Team, which was in 3rd place at the time of the collision, reported that they offered assistance but were advised to continue to the finish line, where they finished the leg in 2nd place.

In a Dongfeng Race Team statement before the fatality was confirmed, Dongfeng skipper Caudrelier commented: “Our first thought is that this is terrible news. We are of course very sad to hear it and very concerned about the fishing boat and await further news on that.

“It is always very dangerous when sailing in these fishing areas when there are so many boats and some have no lights. Obviously this is very bad news for these fisherman, the Volvo Ocean Race and for Vestas.”

Race organisers later requested AkzoNobel to support Vestas as the rescue and recovery situation developed. After a period of holding station close by Vestas 11th Hour, the AkzoNobel crew was released and resumed racing to Hong Kong. AkzoNobel continued racing to finish in third place while Vestas 11th Hour Racing retired and continued to Hong Kong under her own power.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing is a Danish-American team sponsored by a Danish wind energy company and 11th Hour, a US-backed environmental initiative. The team is skippered by Charlie Enright, who co-founded the team with Mark Towill, who is Team Director. For Leg 4 the yacht was skippered by Towill for Leg 4 after Charlie Enwright remained ashore in Melbourne following a family medical emergency.

This is the second Volvo Ocean Race entry sponsored by wind energy company Vestas to be involved in a collision. In the last edition of the race, in 2014, Vestas Wind grounded on the Cargados Carajos Shoals in the Indian Ocean, then racing with a different crew and skipper.