Volvo Launches Collision Investigation - Sail Magazine

Volvo Launches Collision Investigation

Author:
Publish date:
Vestas 11th Hour Racing launches its repaired boat in Auckland, New Zealand, in preparation for Leg 7 around Cape Horn to Brazil   

Vestas 11th Hour Racing launches its repaired boat in Auckland, New Zealand, in preparation for Leg 7 around Cape Horn to Brazil   

In the wake of a collision between Vestas 11th Hour Racing and a commercial fishing vessel in the final stages of Leg 4 to Hong Kong, organizers of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race have commissioned an independent study into ocean racing at night in areas of high vessel traffic density to establish what steps race organizers may take to mitigate risk going forward.

A team chaired by retired Rear Admiral Chris Oxenbould, and assisted by celebrated U.S. navigator and VOR veteran Stan Honey and safety-expert Chuck Hawley, will lead the investigation.

Rear Admiral Oxenbould is a former deputy chief of the Australian Navy and an experienced ocean racing yachtsman with a particular expertise in navigation. He is also the former chairman of Australia Sailing’s National Safety Committee.

According to the VOR, the team will “examine all the issues associated with racing a Volvo Ocean 65, or similar racing boat, at night in areas of high vessel traffic density, drawing on the experiences in recent editions of the Volvo Ocean Race...any findings from the report that could benefit the wider sailing community will be released. It is intended that the [team] will make its report available to Volvo Ocean Race by June 2018.

VOR race director Phil Lawrence added, “Understandably, there has been a lot of reaction to this incident in the sailing community, but the fact is, it takes time to make a responsible assessment of what could be done differently to minimize risk and increase safety. Our sailors, as qualified professionals, understand their responsibilities under the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, Racing Rules of Sailing and the Rules of the Volvo Ocean Race. As race organizers, we will continue to evaluate safety as we race over the coming months and take the appropriate steps to minimize risk.” concluded Lawrence.

Beyond that, the VOR has released a Q&A with Lawrence, that provides some additional details regarding the collision that occurred between Vestas 11th Hour Racing and the other vessel on January 20, around 30 miles from the Leg 4 finish line in Hong Kong. The Q&A is as follow:

Could you please re-cap the particulars of the incident?

A collision occurred between Vestas 11th Hour Racing and a non-racing vessel on 20 January 2018. The incident took place around 30 miles from the Leg 4 finish line in Hong Kong.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing immediately stopped racing, informed Race Control of the incident, sent a Mayday distress signal on behalf of the other vessel and initiated a search and rescue mission, recovering one of the crew. Another boat in the area recovered the other nine crew.

Tragically, one of the fishermen lost his life in the incident. He had been recovered from the water and taken on board Vestas 11th Hour Racing and was transferred by helicopter to a hospital in Hong Kong where medical staff were unable to revive him.

It has taken some time to release more information about the incident. Why is that?

Sadly, a person died in this incident and in these circumstances an official investigation needed to be carried out by the relevant authorities. The casualty arrived in Hong Kong and the incident itself took place in Chinese waters. We have, therefore, been dealing with two official investigations.

While these investigations are underway there are cultural considerations that limit the amount of information we are able to share publicly.

We have now been informed that the investigations by the Hong Kong and mainland China authorities will be closed shortly with no further action to be taken.

Why did you finish the leg in Hong Kong Harbor?

Hong Kong harbor and the surrounding territorial waters are highly regulated with fishing boats subject to restrictions. We were confident that the risks in Hong Kong waters were always well managed.

This incident occurred 30 miles offshore, outside of Hong Kong territorial waters. The fleet still had to navigate the fishing traffic offshore but this is not an uncommon occurrence in these waters. Many different offshore races both professional and amateur, sail through areas of heavy traffic at times, or start or finish in busy harbors. To that end, we have commissioned an independent report to establish what steps race organizers should take to mitigate risk going forward.

Why was Dongfeng Race Team not diverted to the accident scene?

Vestas 11th Hour Racing communicated to us that this was not necessary – there were enough local vessels on the scene rendering assistance and this was told very clearly to Race Control as Dongfeng approached the area. As a result, we decided to release them to finish the leg.

By the time team AkzoNobel approached the area a couple of hours later, we considered that the Vestas 11th Hour Racing crew had been dealing with a crisis situation for more than two hours and might benefit from the support of a fellow competitor staying in the area, on stand-by, if needed.

AkzoNobel did stand by in support, at our request, but was not needed to render any tangible assistance, and was released to continue to the finish line when Vestas 11th Hour Racing began motoring towards Hong Kong following the conclusion of the rescue.

Why has there been so little information on the accident up to now?

I understand Vestas 11th Hour Racing are in a similar position to ourselves with regard to making public statements while authorities are still conducting their investigation. However, the team has issued a more detailed account of what happened today.

There was damage to the Vestas 11th Hour Racing boat in the accident that precluded them from racing in Leg 5 and 6, and the boat was shipped to New Zealand for repairs. Since the boat arrived in New Zealand the team has provided updates on the progress of repairs in anticipation of them re-joining the race.

Is the Volvo Ocean Race in direct contact with the family of the deceased?

Through legal representatives in Hong Kong, we are in contact with the family of the deceased. At all times we have taken advice from our counsel from a cultural perspective, in respect of expressing condolences, providing support and the treatment of those affected by this accident.

March 2018

Related

USCGReadyForRescue_Identifier_FullColor

USCG Ready for Rescue Challenge

The U.S. Coast Guard is now collaborating with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on something it calls the “Ready for Rescue,” a $255,000 prize competition that is looking for ways that will make it easier to locate people, MOB victims in particular, in the water.The ...read more

04-CLR1718md1085-jpg

A Historic Win for Wendy Tuck

This past summer Australian sailor, Wendy Tuck (inset), became the first woman to win a round-the-world yacht race when she and her crew aboard Sanya Serenity Coast claimed the overall victory in the 2017-18 Clipper Race. “I am just so happy,” Tuck said at the finish in ...read more

daviscards

Davis Instruments: Quick Reference Cards

CHECK THESEIf you’re sailing with new crew this summer or your kids have suddenly and inexplicably started to look up from their phones and take an interest in the finer points of cruising, these Quick Reference Cards from Davis are a great way to further their boating education. ...read more

01-rbir18-596

Another Epic Round Britain Race

There are basically two kinds of offshore sailboat races out there: those that take place annually, like the Fastnet and Chicago-to-Mackinac races; and those that take place every other year, like the Transpac and Newport-Bermuda race, in part so the competitors have sufficient ...read more

01b_WALKING-KEDGE-OUT-cmykpromo

Getting More Use From Kedge Anchors

If you are cruising, you need at least two anchors on board for the simple reason that you must have a backup. Imagine having to slip your anchor on a stormy night with other boats dragging down on yours, or having your rope rode severed by some unseen underwater obstacle, ...read more

SailAwayCharter

How-to: Navigating on a Bareboat Charter

So you graduated from navigation class where you practiced dead reckoning, doubling the angle on the bow and maybe even celestial nav, and you now feel well prepared for your first charter trip. Well, you won’t be doing any of that on vacation—not past the first day, anyway.Most ...read more

04-Turtle-rescue

Turtle Rescue in the Vic-Maui

Strange and often wonderful things can happen in the course of an offshore sailboat race, and one of the strangest and most wonderful things we’ve heard of recently took place during the 2,300-mile 2018 Vic-Maui race, from Victoria, British Columbia, to Lahaina, Hawaii.It ...read more