Nov 29, 2014 8:28 PM

Volvo Ocean Race crew abandons grounded sloop

The Associated Press

Nine crewmen from Team Vestas Wind abandoned their 65-foot racing sloop just before dawn after it went aground on a reef off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, race organizers said Saturday night.

The sailors moved to two life rafts anchored to a dry section of the Cargados Carajos Shoals. No injuries were reported.

Organizers said that at daylight, the sailors would either board a boat from the local coast guard and be taken to a nearby island or be picked up by American-based Team Alvimedica, a competitor that dropped its sails and motored within 2 miles of the marooned yacht to aid with the rescue.

Earlier, 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 team deployed two life rafts some 50 feet from the boat in preparation for abandoning ship.

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."

Danish-based Team Vestas Wind is skippered by Australian Chris Nicholson, 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.

Race CEO Knut Frostad said the first priority was the crew's safety. The boat will be evaluated during daylight. But he said the location is some 200 miles from a population base.

He said the forecast for the next 24 hours was good.

"However, it's obviously a complex and serious situation for Team Vestas Wind and the race."

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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