Team Alvimedica won the final offshore battle, claiming the final leg nine of the Volvo Ocean Race, into Gothenberg, but overall glory belonged to overall race winning Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
Team Alvimedica won the final offshore battle, claiming the final leg nine of the Volvo Ocean Race, into Gothenberg, but overall glory belonged to overall race winning Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
Skipper Charlie Enright and the crew of Team Alvimedica made a triumphant entry into The Hague at 0134 local time/2334 UTC this morning putting the US-Turkish team in pole position to win
The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race had started the second of nine legs on November 19, taking the 7-boat fleet on a 5,220 nm course from Cape Town, South Africa to Abu Dhabi, UAE. But on November 29, the race narrative took a dramatic turn when Team Vestas Wind went aground on a reef in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
What followed was the rescue of the crew from the Cargados Carajos Shoals, the salvage of the boat, its ensuing re-build, and ultimately the team’s first sail on May 30 in time to compete in the final two legs of the race. But there was also an investigation into the cause, and while there were several contributing factors, navigator Wouter Verbraak shouldered the bulk of the blame.
Released from the team on January 23, Wouter used the time since the accident to write the book, Beyond The Break: Lessons from a life in high performance teams. Wouter tells the story of the accident from the center of the storm, providing the emotional context from a man who made a major error. But Wouter also uses the opportunity to share his experiences in the sport, and the lessons gained. The book, which provides a fascinating look into the world of elite racing, is now available at Amazon.com.
Here’s an excerpt from the book following the accident:
Dark feelings are starting to rise. I get angry at myself. How could we not have seen the reef? Why did I not zoom in more? I know the electronic charts can have problems with showing details at a larger scale, but missing a complete atoll with reefs and islands?
Exhausted, I sit down on the tubes of the liferaft that we dragged up the beach. It all comes out now. A maelstrom of thoughts keeps going through my head. How did we not see this? What now? How do the others feel? What do the others think of me? With my hands in my head, I feel my eyes well up. I feel like curling up into a ball.
I just want to get out of here, and be home with Kristine and Nicklas (wife and son). Away from all this. All the hard work of the last months, gone. All the sacrifices that we as a family have made for me to do well in the race, chase my dreams, are now done in vain.
I sit there for I don’t know how long. When I look up, I see that the sun is touching the horizon. With the emotions let out, I am able to think a bit clearer. I have hit rock bottom. I am on the rocks. How to move forward from this? There is only one way. I need to gather the courage to stick my hand up. Admit that I made a mistake. Apologize to the team. Don’t be a coward. Step up.
Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck caught up with Wouter for this update…..
Is it hard now to be a spectator to the Volvo Ocean Race?
I have probably been the race’s biggest fan ever since I was 13 and I am currently at the stopover in Holland and really enjoying being part of the audience to this wonderful spectacle, though of course, I would have liked it even more if I had been on board.
How did the accident personally affect you?
I was overwhelmed by all the support I have received and I really appreciate all the great friends and colleagues I have even more now. I also see that there are aspects we can do better in Ocean Racing and I am working hard to share the lessons I have learned. Hopefully a lot of this comes through in the book.
What have you been doing since the accident?
After a period of rest and reflection, and writing a lot – I found that my passion for racing is as strong as it has ever been, I have returned to doing exactly that. I have been sailing class 40s, Open 60s and trimarans with great enjoyment.
Why did you write the book?
Amongst one of the many messages of support after the grounding, I received one from a top executive in the airline industry that really resonated with me and inspired me to write.“In a crisis situations, the leader must stand up and set the tone. He should work along the thought process of We made some mistakes which we intend to share with others so that this situation is not repeated. Greatness is not gained by trying to avoid mistakes by not doing anything, but to learn and improve.”
Have you recovered from this accident?
I would say so. When friends and colleagues make jokes, I am able to join them in laughing. However, the goal remains to share the story to avoid this from happening again, so it is certainly not forgotten.
What has been this accident taught you?
There are many lessons to be learned, many of which are addressed in the Volvo Report and changes are happening to charts, rules etc which is really good to see. On a personal note, I have amongst other things, learned that if you put your hand up, you will get a lot of support and you will be able to move on and improve as you are learning from what went wrong.
Additional information about Wouter Verbraak can be found at his website: www.wvsailing.co.uk
Photos below taken shortly after the grounding
As Wouter Verbraak’s book tour gets underway, Danish newpaper Jyllands-Posten took the opportunity to stir up some controversy about Chris Nicholson’s escaping the TVW grounding without consequence. We’ve already said our piece about it, but it’s worth having a look at what locals are saying in the title sponsor’s home town; especially about the yacht’s port of registration (Cayman Islands). Huge thanks to SA’er ‘peterdane’ for the full translation; get into the forum to be part of the debate.
Wouter Verbraak had never before been trapped. Properly trapped. He had never experienced being in a situation he could not envisage a way out of. Not until now.
Wouter is together with eight others on board the yacht Vestas Wind, one of seven yachts competing in what is billed as sailings Formula 1, the Volvo Ocean Race. But Vestas is no longer a racing yacht of carbon and sails. It is more like a timber raft after it has rammed into a reef in the Indian Ocean at 30-35km/h. Both rudders have broken away, but the boat is not stuck on the reef, it is with the help of the wind and waves being thrown further onto the reef which it has hit 5-10 minutes earlier. Again and again. The impact is huge and it is difficult for Chris Nicholson and his crew to hold on.
The crew tries, but does not succeed to get the boat off the reef. Big waves washes over the boats bow and side, Wouter Verbraak thinks they must be three to four metres high. And as Wouter later says to Sailing Anarchy, “Everything on that reef is there to destroy you”.
The time is just after 19:00 on 29th November 2014. The sun has set and that makes it harder to handle the situation. The nine men cannot get off the boat, the waves are too wild, the surroundings too uncertain.
They call Mayday over the VHF, the local coast guard answers, as does a local fishing vessel. But this is the Indian Ocean. 300kms north of Mauritius, more than 400 kms east of Madagascar. The fishing vessel says it can only get to them at dawn.
Skipper Chris Nicholson gets hold of Volvo Ocean Race, Race Control. “We are on a reef, we cant get off. We are fucked” says the Australian.
The crew survived on what appears to be a Danish boat in the world’s toughest and biggest race, the Volvo Ocean Race. It was “noteworthy” that no one died, according to the 80-page independent report, which was made after the grounding. The report was commissioned by the Volvo Ocean Race and written by the Australian Admiral Chris Oxenbould, the American navigator Stan Honey and the American sailor and lecturer on maritime safety Chuck Hawley. We shall call it the “Volvo Report”.
Jyllands-Posten has looked at the causes of one of the most dramatic events in Danish yachting history after having gotten wind of that skipper Chris Nicholson should have broken Danish Navigation Code and face a fine or 1-2 years in prison. The picture turned out to be more nuanced than that. Nicholson has not broken Danish law, but three experts criticise him, Volvo and Vestas in several areas. Amongst others for violating the international maritime rules and Vestas’ own Code of Conduct.
Navigator and meteorologist Wouter Verbraak has admitted that he made a big mistake before the grounding. He was, according to three new critics of Vestas, Volvo Ocean Race and skipper Chris Nicholson mistakenly made into the only scapegoat.
“Absolute responsibility “
Unlike the Dutch navigator Wouter Verbraak, it was the Australian captain, Chris Nicholson, who was awake when Vestas Wind hit the reef. He had the watch, and a on boat the captain decides. Nicholson knew this well.
“He was fully aware of its absolute responsibility as the person in charge of the safety of the boat and the people on board,” says the “Volvo Report”.
Yet Verbraak and not Nicholson got fired. By Nicholson. Not by the Australian skipper’s employer Vestas who instead handed the decisions about the consequences for the crew to no other than Nicholson.
“It compares to sailing from Elsinore with a new navigator and sail into Anholt. It cannot be the sleeping navigators error. The responsibility lies with the person who takes over the watch and takes responsibility, “says Philipp Shank-Holm who is one of three critics. He is an experienced sailor and trained navigator, who has over the last 40 years sailed more than 100.000 nautical miles on the worlds oceans. He has participated in four Admirals Cup’s, used to be deemed as the World Championships of ocean racing. He is one of four people who criticise Vestas, Volvo and Chris Nicholson in this matter. The other three are Campbell Field, Peter Ingham and Fritz Ganzhorn.
Field is from New Zealand and has participated in three Volvo Ocean Races and was navigator in two of them. He was also technical manager for a team in a fourth Volvo and is a professional navigator. Peter Ingham is a naval engineer and qualified yacht master to the highest level in Denmark, Ganzhorn is director of Sjøfartens Ledere (Seafearers managers), a union for employees in the naval industry. The three has looked carefully into the grounding of Vestas Wind.
In June 2014, Vestas gets an offer they cannot refuse. Volvo Ocean Race has an opening in their race and they offer it to Vestas. “It is by far the largest sponsorship we have ever partaken in… we do it after careful consideration and we know exactly what we want from it” explains Morten Albæk the then communications and marketing director for Vestas. He is telling us about the first Danish only sponsored boat in the Volvo Ocean Race.
Many things about the boat is Danish. The sponsor is Vestas, the crew are all members of the Royal Danish Yacht Club. The boat belongs in Tuborg Havn, and Vestas Wind carries a Danish marine flag during training. The boat is 22 metres long and carries a crew of 9. According to Danish Maritime law, any leisure vessel over 15 metres, but below 24 metres, that sail outside Scandinavia and the British Isles, has to have a skipper with the highest Yacht Master qualifications in Denmark, or equivalent. The so called Yacht skipper 1 exam. Chris Nicholson is the skipper of Vestas Wind, but he has no such qualification.
One would therefore think that the “law regarding the ships crew” that includes all Danish vessels apart from combatting ships and crew carrying vessels had been broken. The responsible would be the skipper, Nicholson and the owner, in this case Vestas, according to the Maritime Agency. If the law was broken, those responsible would face imprisonment for one year and as well as fines. The punishment could increase to two years if the breach was intentional and with gross negligence, and if an economic gain was gained or intended, hereunder also a saving.
But all this changes though by the fact that Vestas Wind does not have to abide by Danish legislation. It is owned by VFS Commercial Services in Spain, who have registered Vestas Wind in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean. The Cayman Islands are a part of the Commonwealth and boats here sail under the legislation of both the islands and British’ legislation.
The requirements for qualifications of a skipper is much more lenient in the Cayman Islands than in Denmark. According to the authorities on the island, Cayman Maritime, the owner of Vestas Wind, VFS Commercial Services just have to ensure that the yacht is appropriately crewed.
The registration in the Cayman Island is criticised by Fritz Ganzhorn from Sjøfartens Leders. He gives a comparison: “If you board the DFDS boat to Oslo, you have faith that it is in fact a Danish ship. We can see the Danish flag, it has Danish crew and we have an expectation that Danish rules are being followed. It would create an uproar should we find out that the boat to Oslo was in fact a Cayman Island boat and therefore could adhere to a lower standard of qualification of the crew”
The challenge to get to the start of the race is enormous for Vestas Wind. Never before has a boat had such a short preparation time for an around the world yacht race. The minimum requirement is that each boat has to sail 3700nm non stop on the ocean before the start of the race, and be in Alicante, Spain, by 9AM on 8th September 2014. Vestas Wind can just manage a continuous week at sea before they arrive in Alicante just hours before the deadline. As a comparison, Brunel has sailed 30.000 nm and Team SCA has more than ten months longer preparation time than Team Vestas, and several boats sail across the Atlantic and back. This short preparation time is in the Volvo Report named as one of the causes behind the grounding of Vestas Wind. “We did not have much time with Vestas, so we did not manage to do all the preparations” said Wouter Verbraak when he held a talk on amongst other things, the grounding, in Denmark on May 5th.
Volvo Ocean Race’s Managing Director Knut Frostad says regarding the registration in the Cayman Islands: “It is one of the best places to register larger sailing yachts. They don’t have as much bureaucracy and it is a fast registration with low fees. Cayman Islands have also got a good legal structure, which is important to the owner to safeguard their values” explains Frostad, and he denies that the registration has anything to do with avoiding the stricter Danish legislation. “There is nothing illegal in this. I can understand that some think that the boat should be registered in Denmark when you have a Danish team, but I dont agree with them. There is no law saying that you should register a boat in Denmark because the main sponsor of the boat is Danish.”
Unethical and bad business moral
The registration is met with criticism.
“It is unethical and bad business moral to have a Danish sponsored boat, representing Denmark in a race, and then behind the scenes have it registered in a country that significantly reduces the safety of the crew due to very convenient rules regarding the qualifications of the boats skipper and navigators”, says yacht master teacher Peter Ingham. “You proclaim to the whole world that we have a Danish yacht, with Danish crew, sponsored by a Danish company and then it turns out that they mislead people to think this is a Danish boat, but in fact, it has nothing to do with Denmark. Nothing” explains Ingham.
As the Danish media throws some fairly nasty but mostly clueless questions around for Team Vestas Wind, the infamous navigator of the blue boat – Wouter Verbraak – has launched his all-new book about their wreck in the Indian Ocean. Wouter sent in this exclusive excerpt from his new book Beyond the Break for the Anarchists to peruse; we’re currently reading the full story for a review, but we can tell you right now that it is a gorgeously produced tome, including a very well-thought out selection of photos from a diverse group of VOR shooters. Order your copy here (US) or here (NED)and have a look at a sample of the format here.
We asked Wouter why he wrote a book about something that anyone else would want to forget, and his answer introduces the excerpt.
Amongst the many comments and emails of support , I received the following advise from from a well-respected former top-executive in the Aerospace industry:
“In a crisis situations, the leader must stand up and set the tone. He should work along the thought process of We made some mistakes which we intend to share with others so that this situation is not repeated. Greatness is not gained by trying to avoid mistakes by not doing anything, but to learn and improve.”
To this end, I decided I wanted to make sure that both the story of our terrible night on the reef, the way we came through that night as a team, as well as the lessons learned should be shared. In doing so, I also wanted to take the opportunity to give an insight in my journey through professional ocean racing and share the lessons I picked up along the way. My dream to become a ocean racing navigator started by reading a beautifully illustrated book about the Whitbread Race, in which Dutch navigator Marcel van Triest stood out by using the weather in a new way in strategy. Maybe this book might entertain and inspire that one 13 year old boy to follow his ocean racing dream? That would be amazing.
Chapter 1 – The Grounding
The sound of crashing carbon is deafening as it is amplified through the interior of the hull.
I’m bolt upright in my bunk. Did we drop the rig? Did we hit a whale? I jump out of my bunk and see Salty in his underpants. The white of his eyes say it all.
“There’s a rock!” I hear from on deck. I look at the little chart plotter in the navigation station. I can’t believe what I see. We are on a reef. A big wave lifts the boat up and we crash down violently.
Chris comes down and shouts. “Which way off Wouter?” “South-East, we need to get off to the SE.” There is lots of water sloshing around in the back of the boat. We need to close the waterproof hatch I think. The boat is picked up again. I brace myself against the bulkhead and we land with another loud crash. Just getting to the water proof door is a challenge, but two smashes later, I manage to get hold of the hatch and pull it closed.
The motor is started and the noise is deafening as the guys on deck try to get off. Zooming in on the electronic charts on the laptop, I can see that we make no progress. We are being thrown backwards further onto the reef. “Reef? How can there be a reef?” We are in the middle of the ocean? How can we not have seen this?” No time for this, we need to get out of this. We need to call for help.
On deck I can hear the grinders going. “We are going to try and lift the boat over on the keel to get off.” I hear Chris say. The engine is revving wildly again as we try to cant the keel. No movement. We are stuck.
“Hello this is Race Control.” It is Dan. Thank God it is Dan. A familiar voice. Dan was with us at the Safety at Sea training in Newcastle. I have gotten to know him well over the last months. “Dan, it is Wouter from Vestas. We hit a reef.” Facts, facts, facts goes through my head. Only communicate facts. “Both rudders and the daggerboard are broken and there is water in the aft compartment. We closed the water tight hatch. We are unable to get off the reef.”
My heart is pounding. I need to take deep breaths, keep calm. A reef? How can there be a reef? Think.
The others in the fleet are miles away, and we need to get immediate assistance to get off. Where are we? Zooming in further all I can see is the green colour of a drying reef and some tiny islands. Who would be here? We are in the middle of nowhere. We have to give it a try. Mayday call. We need to make a Mayday call. Think again. MIPNANO. MIPNANO. That is it. I write the letters vertically down on the note pad. Mayday, Identification, Position, Nature of incident, Assistance required, Number of people on board, Over. I silently say my Thank you’s to the instructor at the VHF training.
I grab the VHF microphone. We get lifted up again. Hold on tight. Another crash and the cracking of carbon. This is not good. We are in serious trouble. Keep calm. Deep breath. Remember: Mayday Call, then Mayday message.
“Mayday Mayday Mayday, this is sailing yacht Vestas Wind, Vestas Wind, Vestas Wind.” OK, done. Another deep breath, now the Mayday message. Follow the letters. MIPNANO. “Mayday, this is Vestas Wind, SE part of reef on Cargados Carajos Shoals, grounded, 9 people on board, need immediate assistance , Over.”
I let go of the button. That was terrible. Absolutely terrible. I stumbled over my words and mixed up the message completely. Terrible. Will anybody answer? Please, please, let somebody answer. I only once made a Mayday call before, and then there was no answer at all. Silence.
Focus. Deep breath. Try again. “Mayday Mayday Mayday, this is sailing yacht Vestas Wind, Vestas Wind, Vestas Wind. Mayday, this is sailing yacht Vestas Wind, we are on the SE part of reef on the Cargados Carajos Shoals in position 16 41.9 S 059 31.8 E, we are heavily grounded, we need immediate assistance to get towed off, 9 people on board, Over.” Will there be any answer this time?
“Sailing vessel Vestas Wind, this is fishing vessel Elisa.” A reply! We got a reply! A fishing boat surely is big enough to come and help us, tow us off, get us from this horrible reef. Get us safe.
I can feel my shoulders drop in relief, but that feeling evaporates as quickly as it arrived. The fishing boat says they can’t come until the morning. It is too dangerous. Not until the morning? It is pitch black. What is the time? More important what is the local time? When is sunrise? A few button pushes on the chart plotter show sunrise at 01:30 UTC. What is the time now? 15:43 UTC…That is long…twenty four minus fifteen is nine plus one is ten. Ten hours? Ten hours until they can come? Ten hours being smashed around on the rocks?
The boat is never going to hold.
Team Vestas Wind navigator Wouter Verbraak has done a lot of soul-searching since the Indian Ocean grounding that changed his life, and he’s spent most of that time writing a book about it. Cleverly scheduled for release just before the end of the VOR, the book promises to “inspire, provoke thought and entertain.” Wouter’s sending us a copy for a full review, and we’ll have a sneak peak at the first chapter for you later today. You can pre-order here; here’s the publisher’s blurb:
The book details the disaster, the lessons learned with the benefit of hindsight; and the overlap with a commercial setting where the level of critical thinking mirrors that of an ocean racing navigator – the major decisions made and the
subsequent decisions to ensure they stay the course. The individual skill set, the importance of psychology and a strong mental edge in a team setting are fundamental to Wouter’s personal development; the ascent to the summit of ocean racing. An equal among the world’s most sought after circumnavigators and strategists.
Skipper Sam Davies and her Team SCA crew struck a resounding blow for women’s sailing in the early hours of Thursday morning when they clinched leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race between Lisbon an
Nicolas Troussel and Félix Pruvot took Normandy Channel Rce line honours on their Humphreys-designed Class40 Bretagne-Credit Mutuel crossing the finish line off Ouistreham at 16:59:
At 06:00 GMT this morning, the Normandy Channel Race fleet was involved in a tough slog up to Tuskar Rock, of southeast Ireland, the frontrunners still some 30 miles short of the lighthouse.
It appears that at some point since our last report, the southerly limit of the ice exclusion zone has been lowered further – it is currently down to 40°N 45 between 52°W19 and 48°W24.
The formation flying continues on day two of the Volvo Ocean Race’s seventh leg eastbound across the North Atlantic between Newport, RI and Lisbon.
MAPFRE, winner of yesterday’s Newport in-port race winner, were again the class act as they led the six VO65s out of Newport at the start of Leg 7 taking the boats across the North Atlanti
Into the North Atlantic proper, the Volvo Ocean Race boats have been eating up the miles covering around 480 miles in the last 24 hours as they speed north towards Newport, Rhode Island and the fin
Overnight the Volvo Ocean Race boats have crossed the Equator passing back into the Northern hemisphere.
The overall strategy for the first south Atlantic section of the Volvo Ocean Race’s sixth leg north to Newport, Rhode Island has been about when to put in ‘the big tack’.
The leg north up the Atlantic is one that is often underestimated with the presumption of it being a lighter wind affair compared to the previous ravages of the Southern Ocean.
Team Brunel won the Volvo Ocean Race’s excruciatingly drawn-out Team Vestas Wind In-Port Race Itajaí today when a lack of breeze tested the sailors’ patience and seamanship to the f
The Volvo Ocean Race enjoyed another impressively close finish as leg five from Auckland, across the Southern Ocean, round Cape Horn and up to Itajaí, Brazil concluded with the top four boat
Since Thursday when they were forced to pass the tricky northerly extremity of the ice limit that required repeated gybes to stay north of 51°S between 120 and 150°W, the VO65s have been se
Overnight there has been a lead change in the Volvo Ocean Race.
The Volvo Ocean Race boats passed back into the supposedly ‘Roaring Forties’ yesterday, but with it came a change in conditions, ith the furious blasting reaching conditions abating, the wind backi
Since passing New Zealand’s East Cape yesterday afternoon (UTC), the six VO65s have been heading out into the open water with their next landfall set to be Cape Horn more than 4000 miles away with