Fatal Collision in Volvo Ocean Race

On January 19, approaching the finish of leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race, team Vestas 11th Hour collided with a local fishing vessel.   All 10 men aboard that boat wound up in the water; their boat sank.  One later died after being helicoptered to hospital.  No one aboard the racing boat was hurt.

Of course, details are sketchy as always.  We do know that…

  • It was the middle of the night;
  • Vestas’ ground speed was 20 knots in 23 knots of breeze;
  • they were 30 miles from the finish;
  • Vestas was vying tight for 2nd place in that leg with another boat;
  • They were in Hong Kong waters and it was crowded out there.

Sound like a recipe for disaster yet?

Coincidentally, this was the second accident for the company Vestas.  In the last Volvo Ocean Race, their team grounded and destroyed their boat and some reef in the Indian Ocean (we wrote about that then).  It’s the same company sponsoring the team, but a different boat and racing team.

Here’s a screen grab from AIS showing vessel traffic in the area one hour before the collision…

There’s an article in the Hong Kong/Macau edition of the Oriental Daily News with a video compilation that includes a Q&A with a sailor from another team and yacht.

ed. aside/sub rant:   All the PC in the world is getting to be too much.  People shudder when a white person in NY says “Oriental” when they think it should be Asian.  Here, it’s in the name of the bloody paper!  Yes, yes – context, location, etc.  Another example is in navigation courses and books in the United States.   There’s a table we create to convert between different versions of ‘North.’  The salty old pneumonic to remember it? TVMDC +W!  That stands for… True Virgins Make Dull Company – Add Whiskey!  It’s been sterilized far more than whiskey itself could ever accomplish – and it can’t be remembered.  Defeats the purpose.  End of Rant… for now.)

Back to the rant at hand.  It’s now been about a month since the accident and we know about the same stuff as when it happened.  Photos of the damage to the Vestas boat seem to indicate that the sailboat rode up and over the fishing boat, or plowed through it.  There is extensive damage to the bottom of the Vestas hull near the bow.

The cracked in hull is obvious, but see the bottom of the vessel as well. There are more detailed images out there that are specifically marked as copyrighted for those who search a little, but this makes the point.

We weren’t there.  Neither were you (unless you’re one of the Vestas onboard team, in which case we’d love to hear from you).  We wish there were more information available.  Not out of morbid curiosity, and, yes –  that’s in human nature or tabloids wouldn’t sell so well – but out of a desire to better learn how to prevent accidents and injuries.

The answer might be to set a less difficult and potentially dangerous challenge when all that’s at stake is money and ego.  Endangering ones own life is a self entitlement until it endangers, or even just wastes the time and resources of, others.

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