Nov 29, 2014 10:51 PM

Sailors rescued after abandoning grounded sloop

The Associated Press

Nine crewmen from Team Vestas Wind were rescued after abandoning their 65-foot sloop that ran aground on a reef off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean during the Volvo Ocean Race.

The sailors will stay on the remote Ile du Sud, where there is a house and some facilities, race officials said late Saturday night. There were no injuries.

Danish-backed Team Vestas Wind was making plans with race officials on how to get the crew off the island and salvage the sloop.

U.S.- based Team Alvimedica was released to continue racing toward Abu Dhabi after dropping its sails and motoring within two miles of the damaged yacht in case it was needed to help with a rescue.

"I'm extremely relieved that every one of the nine crew members now are safe and that nobody is injured," race CEO Knut Frostad said in a statement. "That has always been our first priority since we first learned about the grounding.

"At the same time, I'm deeply saddened that this happened to Team Vestas Wind and Chris Nicholson and his team. It's devastating for the team, for the race and for everyone involved. I really feel for Chris and the team right now and we will continue to support them all the way going forward."

The drama started Saturday when the sloop ran aground on the Cargados Carajos Shoals. The crew deployed two life rafts in case it had to abandon ship, and Team Alvimedica peeled off and headed for the Danish yacht.

Just before dawn Sunday local time, the nine sailors abandoned the sloop and moved to two life rafts anchored to a dry section of the reef.

They were rescued by a local coast guard after daylight.

Team Vestas Wind reported both its rudders were broken and the stern of its 65-foot boat was being beaten on rocks, with the bow pointing out to sea.

The Volvo Ocean 65 sloops have watertight bulkheads in the bow and the stern. The rest of the boat was intact, including the rig.

The shoals are some 850 miles east of Madagascar.

"Racing has become secondary at this point," Team Alvimedica skipper Charlie Enright of Bristol, Rhode Island, said through organizers. "Our No. 1 priority is the safety of the Vestas crew and we will do anything we can to help them and we will not alter our plan until the situation is under the control."

Team Vestas Wind is skippered by Nicholson, an Australian who has consecutive runner-up finishes in the Volvo Ocean Race, with PUMA Ocean Racing in 2009 and CAMPER in 2012.

There was no immediate word on what caused the accident or the weather conditions at the time.

Team Vestas Wind was in fifth place on the second leg, from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi, when the accident happened.

Frostad said Team Alvimedica can seek to be compensated in the race standings for the time it has used to assist Team Vestas Wind.

The Volvo Ocean Race began Oct. 11 from Alicante, Spain, and will end in Gothenburg, Sweden, in June. It will cover 38,739 nautical miles. The U.S. stopover is in Newport, Rhode Island, from May 5-17.

Volvo Ocean Races crews are never far from danger.

In May 2006, Dutch sailor Hans Horrevoets died after being swept off the deck of ABN AMRO TWO in the North Atlantic. The crew turned back and pulled him out of the water but couldn't resuscitate him.

Three days later, with Horrevoets' body still aboard, ABN AMRO TWO responded to a distress call from rival movistar of Spain and rescued its 10-man crew.

In the race's last edition, the mast on U.S.-based Puma Ocean Racing's Mar Mostro snapped in the South Atlantic, forcing the sloop to drop out of opening leg and limp to the remote island of Tristan da Cunha to await a ship that transported it to Cape Town.


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