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Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Vestas crash death: co-skippers speak for first time on tragic Volvo Ocean Race collision that claimed fisherman’s life

Mark Towill and Charlie Enright offer their condolences; it is also revealed that the Vestas crew pulled the man out of the water but he died hours later

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2018, 6:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 January, 2018, 6:22pm

The co-skippers of the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) boat involved in a fatal collision off the coast of Hong Kong last week have spoken for the first time since the accident – offering condolences to the families “and all those affected by this tragic situation”.

Man dies after Volvo Ocean Race yacht hits mainland Chinese fishing boat near Hong Kong

Americans Mark Towill and Charlie Eright, co-skippers of American-Danish boat Vestas 11th Hour Racing, released a statement on Wednesday about the incident that occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning just as Hong Kong boat Scallywag crossed the finish line at Kai Tak Terminal to win the fourth leg from Melbourne.

One fisherman died and nine others were rescued after a collision between the 72-foot (with bowsprit) VOR 65 and a mainland fishing boat about 30 miles from the finish line.

According to VOR Race Control, the Vestas crew helped in search and rescue operations and pulled one man out of the water. The man was taken to hospital by helicopter but died hours later. The other nine fishermen were rescued by a nearby commercial vessel, according to Race Control.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with the families and all those affected by this tragic situation,” said Towill, who also looks after the business side of Vestas operations.

Enright said: “Our hearts go out to everyone involved in this terrible incident. It has been difficult for the crew and the entire Vestas 11th Hour Racing team. We are grateful for the overwhelming support we’ve had during this very tough time.”

The identity of the fisherman who died is yet to be revealed.

Race Control said Vestas sent out a Mayday signal immediately after the accident and assisted Hong Kong Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in search and rescue operations.

None of the Vestas crew was injured in the collision. The boat, however, suffered a damaged hull and was able to reach Hong Kong using its own engine power. Vestas, who was second at the time, retired from race after a 6,000-mile journey from Melbourne.

Race Control had earlier said Vestas had at no time requested assistance, although another VOR boat, Team AkzoNobel, was sent to check on Vestas before completing its race.

Race Control was unable to say what caused the accident. It is also not known if the fishing boat had its navigation lights turned on or was using Automatic Identification System.

“We don’t have answers to those questions yet but of course those are central questions to the on-going investigation,” Race Control said in the VOR website. “Both Vestas 11th Hour Racing and the Volvo Ocean Race will cooperate with the relevant authorities to establish what happened.”

Race Control added that it was not able to prevent the accident.

“While Race Control does monitor the position of the race boats for safety reasons, Race Control does not have access to the position of every other vessel at sea,” it said.

“We offer our deepest condolences to his loved ones and family. We are relieved that the nine other mariners on board were rescued and initial reports have them in good condition.”

The Vestas team, meanwhile, has cancelled an open media day scheduled for Thursday “due to team circumstances”.