Volvo Ocean Race: The terrors of hitting a reef

See the first onboard footage from Team Vestas’ grounding on a shallow offshore reef.
© Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race
By Josh Sampiero

Late in the hours of Saturday, November 29, misfortune hit Team Vestas – or rather, they hit it. The 20m Volvo Ocean 65-class boat ran into an offshore reef known as the Cargados Carajos Shoals, technically part of the island nation of Mauritius. After a week of speculation from media and spectators, video from the incident has finally been released – see it above. (Warning: Not surprisingly, given the events, the video contains some strong language.)

The incident – which occured after dark but in relatively moderate conditions – left the boat hard aground and the nine crew members preparing to evacuate via safety rafts. In the early hours of Sunday morning, they were rescued by the local coastguard and taken to a small nearby island to await assistance. No one was seriously injured.

No sailing off this reef
Moving the boat was impossible © Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race

While speculation has been rife as to how the crash occured, the ultimate cause, admits boat captain Chris Nicholson, was human error: "It's clear that human error is responsible for the shipwreck, there's no avoiding that. And as skipper, I take ultimate responsibility."

In following days, the team returned to the hull to assess damage and recoverability, and to remove equipment that had potential to do environmental damage.

No sailing off this reef
Initial concerns were simply survival © Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race

While the boat appears to be unsalvageable, Team Vestas have not officially announced their retirement from the multi-leg race. The six other teams continue towards the next stop in Abu Dhabi, where racing will break for the Christmas holidays and resume after the New Year, finishing in Gothenburg, Sweden, in June 2015.

To learn more about the race, head to for weekly episodes of Life at the Extreme.

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