Tragedy off Hong Kong in Volvo Ocean Race Collision

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There is more that we don’t know about what happened to our friends aboard Vestas 11th Hour Racing as they approached an epic finish of Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race. A long leg of the Around the World race saw them holding onto their sweet position in the front of the fleet for most of the way from Melbourne to just outside Hong Kong. And that’s when things went terribly wrong. What we do know is below – and in the days since the tragedy, there has been little concrete info added to the story – but there sure has been plenty of speculation. So we are offering you the facts as they are now – and a few others we wanted to throw at the story because these guys and gals are our friends, and we have 2 TotalBoat Ambassadors involved with this team, and we know that no news doesn’t necessarily mean good news. 

These sailors are expert watermen and women. They are professional sailors who are competing at the highest level and they push themselves and their boats hard when conditions and the situation permit them to do so. They don’t approach or go screaming into a crowded port without a few extra eyes on the water. In the dark of night on the open ocean, it’s hard to see your bow, much less another (possibly – maybe even ‘probably’ unlit) boat. It will be interesting to hear their account of the collision. But until then – we wait and try not to jump to conclusions.

In the days since the tragedy, *it happened Friday night in HK – midday EST)* there are many questions that remain. We can be sure the facts are there – and are being withheld from us all for good reason at this point. We can only hope Team Vestas 11th Hour Racing can carry on with a repaired boat (the boat appears to still be in custody by the local authorities, meaning any large repairs are already starting late… with good reason). Team leaders and skippers Charlie Enright and Mark Towill are upstanding, honorable guys and are most likely less concerned with trivialities in the face of a major tragedy. We send them our thoughts and continued courage to get through these tough times.  The story, as offered so far from the Volvo Ocean Race, is below. We will provide updates when possible.

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Jan 20 (Reuters) – Vestas 11th Hour Racing withdrew from the fourth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race on Saturday after a fatal collision with a fishing boat on the approach to Hong Kong.

Organizers said in a statement that a member of the fishing vessel’s crew had died after being taken to hospital by helicopter.

None of those on board Vestas were injured, with the team issuing a Mayday distress call on behalf of the other boat to alert the Hong Kong Marine Rescue Coordination Centre (HKMRCC).

“The incident occurred approximately 30 miles from the finish of Leg Four, outside of Hong Kong waters,” the statement said.

“Race Control at Volvo Ocean Race headquarters was informed of the collision by the team moments after it happened at approximately 17:23 UTC on Friday (01:23 local time on Saturday morning).

“HKMRCC informed Race Control that a commercial vessel in the area was able to rescue nine of the crew and that a tenth crew member was taken by helicopter to hospital. HKMRCC has since confirmed the death of the air-lifted crew member.”

Organizers said the U.S./Danish entry had retired from the leg — which started in Melbourne and ended in Hong Kong — with the boat proceeding to Hong Kong unassisted and under its own power.

American Mark Towill, a team co-founder with Charlie Enright, was the skipper for Leg Four. The team won the opening leg of the race in October and had been on course to finish second in Leg Four.

The 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race started from Alicante, Spain, on Oct. 22 and covers 45,000 nautical miles (83,000 km) around the world, featuring a total of 12 host ports. It ends in The Hague, Netherlands, at the end of June.

The fourth leg was won by Hong Kong-based Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, skippered by Australian David Witt. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris)

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