At press time, Vestas 11th Hour Racing and organizers of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean race were still not saying much about what, if anything is going to be done to prevent collisions like the one that occurred between Vestas 11th Hour Racing and a commercial fishing boat just 30 miles short of the finish of Leg 4 in Hong Kong from happening again.
Presumably, the other six teams all received a serious debriefing on the incident, if for no other reason than the fact they would be racing back through the exact same kinds of shipping-strewn water for much of Leg 6 from Hong Kong to Auckland, New Zealand. However, beyond that, no word from the VOR other than that it was “actively working with the Hong Kong Police and the Maritime Authority to support the on-going investigation.” Because of damage to its hull, Vestas 11th Hour Racing was not planning on rejoining the race until Leg 7, from Auckland to Itajaí, Brazil.
According to VOR organizers, the accident took place at around 0123 Saturday, January 9, and there were 10 sailors aboard the commercial fishing vessel at the time of the collision. Nine of the crew were recovered safely, but the 10th, who was recovered by Vestas 11th Hour Racing, was later pronounced dead after being airlifted to shore. None of the members of Vestas 11th Hour Racing were injured. Questions like whether or not the fishing boat had it navigation lights on, or whether Vestas 11th Hour Racing tried to make any last-minute moves to avoid the other boat remain unanswered.
At the time, Vestas 11th Hour Racing was sailing at about 20 knots through a stretch of water notorious for its commercial traffic and large fishing fleet toward what it hoped would be a second-place finish behind Hong Kong’s own Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag. The fishing boat that was struck ultimately sank, but Vestas 11th Hour Racing was able to make it into Hong Kong under its own power.
“On behalf of Vestas 11th Hour Racing and the Volvo Ocean Race, we offer our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the deceased,” the team said in an official statement afterward. “Vestas 11th Hour Racing and the Volvo Ocean Race are now focused on providing immediate support to those affected by this incident and are co-operating with the authorities in the ongoing investigation.” For that latest on the incident, go to sailmagazine.com/racing.