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On 29 November 2014 a high-powered yacht racing in the Volvo Ocean Race crashed into the Carajos Shoals. Team Vestas Wind was grounded and could not continue the second leg of the race. The nine crew members on board were forced to abandon ship in the middle of the night and were rescued by the Mauritius coast guard the following day.
The crisis unfolds
The team was on its way to Abu Dhabi after setting sail at Cape Town harbor, and entered an area near Mauritius where seamounts are common. A seamount is a body of rock rising from the sea floor, not visible above the water. The charted depth of the area was incorrectly assessed at 40m and the yacht was steered into one of these mounts. It was traveling at a speed of between 16 and 21 knots when the collision occurred. The rudders instantly broke off and the team leaped into action. In footage of the crisis available online, the fear in the crew members’ voices is obvious, as are their synchronized efforts.
Just over three months after the grounding happened, an independent report was published. Commissioned by the race organizers, the investigation was carried out by retired rear admiral Chris Oxenbould, ocean navigation expert Chuck Hawley and chairman of the US Sailing Safety at Sea Committee, Stan Honey – all experts in the field. It was revealed that a failure to do proper checks on the electric charts was the reason behind the grounding.
Australian skipper Chris Nicholson and Dutch navigator Wouter Verbraak have since agreed to the findings of the report. It was also stated that it was one of the best and worst moments the veteran sailors experienced in sailing. The best because of the teamwork involved in trying to save a yacht and nine lives.