Skip to main content

Future Uncertain for Wrecked Volvo Ocean Race Team

After three days of being largely out of touch with the world, the nine-man crew of the Volvo Ocean 65 Vestas is now back on Mauritius after running hard aground this past weekend on a remote reef in the Indian Ocean.
  • Author:
  • Updated:

Five days after Team Vestas ran aground on a reef off Mauritius, all that is certain is that the crew is now safely ashore and that the boat is severely damaged, likely beyond repair. When or if Australian-born skipper Chris Nicholson and crew will be able to continue to compete in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race remains an open question—as does the matter of what went wrong.

According to an official team statement: “What we can say now…is that human error is at the root of the accident. We’ll learn more about the details of what happened exactly when we have a chance to properly debrief with the crew, which we expect to happen in Abu Dhabi over the weekend.”

“Though we won’t be able to compete in the next leg from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China, we are considering all available options for re-joining the race at a later stage,” added Vestas chief marketing officer, Morten Albaek.

One thing race fans have been able to learn are some of the details of the grounding itself, which was a harrowing one to say the least.

Raw footage from aboard Alvimedica as the crew stands by to possibly assist Team Vestas.

According to Nicholson, it was early Saturday evening when the boat ran hard aground while sailing at 19 knots, immediately lodging the boat’s keel into the coral. Unfortunately, because it was only shortly after nightfall, the crews had to then endure a full eight hours of simply having to hang on until there was enough light to think about abandoning ship. As they did so, Team Alvimedica stood by: unable to get close because of the treacherous shallows, but still able to help with communications between Team Vestas and VOR headquarters.

“We knew there was shallow water on the other side of the reef in the lagoon side,” Nicholson says. “The problem was that for most of the night we were just on the deep-water side where the keel was jammed in the rocks and the boat was being beaten by those complete point-break waves. We had to just hang on through that with the boat breaking up around us.

“Toward daylight, like two hours just before daylight, the bulb broke off and the boat leaned over heavily. While that was happening we probably lost the back of the boat, it was gone, missing, and the deck started to fold and the boat was heeling over more so I made the decision that we were getting off. We’d already practiced deploying the jonbuoy off the back to see where it would drift to, and we’d already deployed one life raft, which was across the reef if we could get to it. We’d been practicing throughout the night how we were going to do it. We made the call and got on with the job.”

Ultimately, the nine-man crew was able to wade through the shallows to a dry point in the reef where a local coast guard RIB was able to take them to the tiny islet known as Ile du Sud island, where they spent three days before being taking a 20-hour boat trip to Mauritius itself. During their stay on Ile du Sud, the crew removed as much of the boat’s rigging, fuel and other hazardous materials as possible.

At the time of the accident, Team Vestas was in fifth place, some 90 miles behind Donfeng Race Team and roughtly 40 miles ahead of Team Alvimedica. The entire fleet was following more or less the same track, with the four lead boats having passed just slightly to the east of where Team Vestas grounded a few hours earlier.



Video: Celestial Navigation Pt3

. In episode three of the Practical Celestial Navigation course, Andy Howe examines the theory behind celestial navigation, the celestial triangle and the celestial sphere, and why it is important to have a basic understanding of each. Topics introduced include zenith position, more


Sailing in the Time of Covid

In mid-August 2019, my wife, Terrie, and I laid up our Malö 46, Nada, in Falmouth, England, and flew home to Maine. We booked flights back to the UK for May 2020, anticipating a summer of cruising the Atlantic coasts of France and Spain. Then Covid struck. Remember that first more

Ulysse Nardin promo photo

The Ocean Race Names Official Timekeeper

With just under one year before the start of The 2022-23 Ocean Race, Swiss watch manufacturer Ulysse Nardin has been named the official timekeeper of the race. The Ocean Race, formerly known as the Volvo Ocean Race and before that the Whitbread Round the World Race, announced more

Arthur Daniel_RORC Maserati - RORC Transatlantic 2022 - Jan 15th -Social Media-4

Fast Finishes for the RORC Leaders

Over the weekend, the first finishers of the 2022 RORC Transat made landfall in Grenada, led by Giovanni Soldini’s Multi70 Maserati, which was awarded line honors with a corrected time of six days, 18 hours and 51 minutes. Maserati finished ahead of Peter Cunningham’s MOD70 more


Notice to Mariners: A Blog from the SAIL Editors

As a teenager, I stumbled across a copy of Derek Lundy’s Godforsaken Sea in the back room of a used bookshop. I had never heard of the Vendée Globe and frankly found all the boat-speak in the first 50 pages a little difficult to get through. But Lundy’s storytelling and the draw more


VIDEO: Celestial Navigation Episode 2

Celestial navigation is an invaluable tool for all kinds of sailors. In episode two of the celestial navigation series, learn the basic elements of navigation and the sight reduction process using declination and GHA to determine the Geographic Position and navigate using a more


Cruising: Year of the Sea Shanty

Along with other timeless pursuits, like baking sourdough and gardening, singing sea shanties surged back into popularity during the recent lockdown, thanks, in part, to the app TikTok and its “duet” feature, which allows singers from around the world create music together. By more


Book Review: Sailor Song

Sailor Song is the ultimate guide to the music of working sailors during the 18th and 19th centuries. The book includes lyrics and sheet music for 50 of the most beloved sea songs with fascinating historical background on the adjoining page. Chapter introductions provide more