Volvo Ocean Race crew hits reef, abandons ship

By Bernie Wilson

Nine crewmen from Team Vestas Wind were rescued on Sunday 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 were picked up by a local coast guard for transportation to the remote Ile du Sud, where there is a house and some facilities, race officials said. There were no injuries.

Danish-backed Team Vestas Wind was making plans with race officials on how to salvage the sloop.

��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, about 1350 kilometers (850 miles) east of Madagascar. 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 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.

Team Vestas Wind is skippered by Nicholson, an Australian who has two 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, which diverted off course to help the stranded crew, 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.