Team Vestas Wind on course for long trip back to Europe for repairs

Team Vestas Wind’s stranded Volvo Ocean 65 boat was retrieved from a remote reef in the Indian Ocean yesterday and is heading on a round-trip back to Europe, via Mauritius and Malaysia.
Much hard work went into the Team Vestas Wind salvage operation at St Brandon Island, Mauritius. Shane Smart / Volvo Ocean Race
Much hard work went into the Team Vestas Wind salvage operation at St Brandon Island, Mauritius. Shane Smart / Volvo Ocean Race

Team Vestas Wind’s stranded Volvo Ocean 65 boat was retrieved from a remote reef in the Indian Ocean yesterday and is heading on a round-trip back to Europe, via Mauritius and Malaysia.

The Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) boat was carefully refloated clear of the reef in St Brandon on Sunday evening, where it had laid since November 29, and on to a nearby lagoon.

From there it was lifted on to a waiting Maersk Line ship to complete the delicate first stage of an operation, which could see the boat being reconstructed.

The Vestas shore manager, Neil Cox, and the boat’s skipper, Chris Nicholson, oversaw the complicated process of extracting it from the rock where it was trapped.

Nicholson had led his crew to safety just over three weeks ago after the boat ran aground on the reef, 430 kilometres from Mauritius, at about 35kph, in the middle of Leg 2, Cape Town to Abu Dhabi, of the round-the-world race.

The retrieval was achieved thanks to careful planning, according to Tom Touber, VOR chief operating officer.

“Our preferred plan – to rescue the boat as intact as possible – worked out,” he said.

Vestas chief executive Morten Albaek thanked island residents who assisted in the operation.

“For us, the environmental side of this project was a key objective. It’s mission accomplished,” Albaek said.

“We’ll make an announcement on the outlook regarding a potential return to the 2014/15 race before the start of Leg 3” in Abu Dhabi on January 3.

“We’ve been really lucky that from the minute the incident happened, we’ve developed a relationship with the guys who actually live on the island here,” Cox said. “We’ve employed the workforce that already exists out here, and without it we couldn’t have done the job, full stop.

“There’s probably a workforce of 10 guys. They’ve been standing knee deep in water with waves hitting them all day, they’ve been carrying oxygen bottles for us to be able to cut the keel off, they’ve been helping us re-anchor the boat otherwise things would start moving across the reef.”

Cox was cautious about promising too much for the next steps – the boat will be checked out more fully in Malaysia before heading to Europe, possibly Italy, for a ­rebuild.

“A week ago the light at the end of the tunnel was getting smaller and smaller, but what we’ve been able to retrieve off the reef is substantial,” he said.

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Published: December 22, 2014 04:00 AM

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