On Saturday 29th November 2014 at 15:21 UTC, Team Vestas Wind reported having run aground Cargados Carajos Shoals, Mauritius. No one was injured.
The nine-man crew abandoned ship in the early hours of Sunday morning, wading through knee-deep water to a dry position on the reef. They were picked up from there at daylight by a coastguard rib and taken to the nearby Íle du Sud.
Almost 72 hours after the accident, and as the Team make their way to Mauritius, skipper Chris Nicholson (Nico) and shore manager Neil Cox (Coxy), presently in Mauritius coordinating activities, give their take on recent events:
Abandoning the boat
Nico: “We knew there was shallow water on the other side of the reef in the lagoon side. The problem was that for most of the night we were on the deep water side and the boat was being beaten by those complete point break waves. Two hours before daylight, the boat leaned over heavily so I made the decision that we were getting off. We’d been practicing throughout the night how we were going to do it. We made the call and got on with the job.
Coxy: “They were into the life rafts and literally 20 mins later, I got another phone call saying we’re all good and we’re standing on a rock…we’ve paddled a quarter of a mile or whatever away from the boat. They were able to get on a rock above the reef, a good metre and a half above sea level. Everyone was accounted for, everyone safe, so of course that’s a huge relief. The whole situation was defused, but the reality of it is, they were standing on a rock in the middle of the Indian Ocean”.
Nico: “My major concerns were obviously for the well-being of my crew, and also everyone who may actually have felt for them that night as well. Some of my first phone calls after colliding with the reef, once I let Race Control know, were asking Neil Cox to get the families informed so that they knew what was going on. During the course of things we lost all electrical supply, we lost satphone coverage, and the old snowball thing was happening. I can only imagine what was happening with the families. So that’s my immediate concern and also that we need to recover this vessel as much as we possibly can.”
Coxy: “We have still got nine guys sitting on what is basically a sand pit out in the middle of the Indian Ocean. They are still the priority. It’s a peace of mind to know they’re all safe and doing everything they can out there with the boat right now.
The Mauritius Coast Guard flew over the islet yesterday and air dropped food and medicine to the shipwrecked crew. There is limited electricity available on the islet via a generator that operates part of the day. We’ve got the sat phone there, that’s our main source of communication.”
Coxy: “A fishing boat will pick the guys up early tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. It’s almost a day trip to get them back to Mauritius, so we’re looking at them arriving early Wednesday morning. I’m in the process right now of getting everyone’s customs clearance, getting all the bureaucracy sorted out before they get here, trying to make it as simple as possible for them. They’re stepping onto Mauritius with basically the clothing they’ve got on them.
We’re trying to bring as much back as we can on the fishing boat so it can be reused or returned or whatever needs to be. We’ll deal with the boat after that.
Just like any competitive or professional sport things can go wrong and they have to be dealt with as professionally as when everything is going right. I know I can speak for Nico, myself and our sponsor when I say that we want to make sure that everything is followed through 100%”.
Limiting environmental impact
Skipper Chris Nicholson and several others crew members have returned several times to the Vestas boat to remove as much environmentally sensitive material as possible. Given just how little they have to work with out there, the crew is demonstrating extraordinary professionalism and environmental responsibility in this regard.
Nico: “The whole crew spent as long a time as we could retrieving diesel, oil, hydraulics, batteries, water, food, equipment etc. from the boat to limit environmental impact. It’s an absolutely stunning lagoon and bird colony that’s on these islands, and it’s just unheard of - so we are going to do our best and clean up.”
Keep up to date with news from Team Vestas Wind and our boat on our blog and via social media: