Vestas Discusses Fatal Collision, Recovery

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Vestas 11th Hour Racing co-captains Mark Towill and Charlie Enright discuss the collision near the end of Leg 4 as well as the efforts the team has made to get back into racing trim

Just over a month after 11th Hour Racing’s fatal collision with a commercial fishing vessel shortly before the finish of Leg 4 in Hong Kong, the team is providing yet more details on what exactly happened.

In a formal statement (see below) the team emphasizes that it’s earlier silence on the incident was in response to the complexity of the situation and to show respect for the family of the deceased—a plausible explanation made only more plausible by the team’s increasing transparency.

The statement also details the team’s efforts to get back into the race.

Kudo’s to co-captains Mark Towill and Charlie Enright and the team as a whole for its behavior not just in the immediate wake of the accident, but in the weeks afterward. Best of luck to the team as it re-joins the race for Leg 7 from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajaí, Brazil, starting March 18.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing Statement on Leg 4 Collision and Repair of its Boat:

Just after 0100 hours on the morning of January 20 (local Hong Kong time), Vestas 11th Hour Racing was involved in a collision with a fishing vessel. Shortly after the accident, nine Chinese fishermen were rescued, however, one other very sadly perished. The Vestas 11th Hour Racing crew were not injured, but the VO65 race yacht suffered significant damage to its port bow. See Q&A with Mark Towill, skipper of Leg 4 for additional information on the incident.

The loss of a life still weighs heavily on the minds of Mark Towill and Charlie Enright, the co-founders of the team, and every other team member. “On behalf of the team, our thoughts and prayers go out to the deceased’s family,” said 29-year-old Towill. Out of respect for the process, the deceased and his family, the team has remained silent throughout the investigation.

Towill was skipper on Leg 4 because Enright had to sit out due to a family crisis. During Leg 3, from South Africa to Australia, Enright’s 2-year-old son had been admitted to the hospital with a case of bacterial pneumonia. Immediately before the end of Leg 4, Enright traveled to Hong Kong to greet the crew at the finish line, but instead had to play an active role in the crisis management process from the shore.

“I have been asked if it would have been different if I was onboard. Definitely not,” said Enright. “The crew has been well trained in crisis situations and performed as they should. They knew what to do and I think they did a phenomenal job given the circumstances. There comes a point when family is more important than the job you’ve been hired to do, and I was at that point. I did what was best for my family.”

“The team was engaged in search and rescue for more than two hours with a compromised race boat,” Enright said. “I’m very proud of our crew. We were in a very difficult situation with the damage to the bow, but everyone acted professionally and without hesitation,” added Towill.

Despite the badly damaged bow, Towill and the crew of the stricken Vestas 11th Hour Racing boat carried out a search and rescue effort, which culminated in a casualty being retrieved and transferred to a helicopter, with the assistance of Hong Kong Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre.

The Vestas 11th Hour Racing VO65 was shipped to New Zealand from Hong Kong on January 28. A new port bow section was laid up over a VO65 hull mold at Persico Marine in Italy and then sent to New Zealand, where it was spliced to the hull of the team’s VO65 in the past two weeks.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing co-captains Mark Towill and Charlie Enright discuss the collision near the end of Leg 4 as well as the efforts the team has made to get back into racing trim

Enright and Towill both complimented team manager Bill Erkelens, who has played a central role keeping the team together since the accident. Erkelens put together Enright and Towill’s program in the 2014-’15 Volvo Ocean Race and he was the first person they hired for the current team.

The team hopes to relaunch their VO65 in the coming days and will then spend some time practicing and possibly complete an overnight sail.

In the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, Enright and Towill’s crew led the fleet around Cape Horn by 15 minutes. It had been two weeks of thrilling racing from New Zealand, highlighted by 50-knot winds and a jibing duel along the ice boundary and a tight port/starboard crossing.

“That was an experience that’s still very fresh in my mind,” said Enright. “It was a hair-raising leg, with lots of maneuvers and heavy conditions. We’ll have to be on our toes again because the Southern Ocean demands respect. I imagine once we get a couple of days out of Auckland we’ll settle into the normal pattern of life at sea.”

Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race, approximately 6,700 nautical miles to Itajaí, Brazil, is scheduled to begin March 18. Prior to that, the New Zealand In-Port Race is scheduled March 10.

March 2018

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