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Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Damage from fatal collision puts Vestas’ Volvo Ocean Race future in doubt as they pull out of inshore events in Hong Kong

A statement from the team said they would not compete in the weekend’s In-Port Race and Around the Island Race as well as leg five to Guangzhou

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 January, 2018, 5:42pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 January, 2018, 10:49pm

Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s future in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race is in doubt after the team pulled out of this weekend’s inshore races as well as leg five from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, with the skipper saying they are still “assessing all of our options to return to the race”.

The American-Danish yacht was involved in an accident that caused the death of a mainland fisherman in the early hours of Saturday morning, 30 miles from the finish line of leg four in Hong Kong after a 6,000-nautical mile race from Melbourne, Australia.

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

Vestas and a Chinese fishing boat were involved in the collision, which resulted in the death of one mainland fisherman and the rescue of nine others. None of the Vestas crew was injured but the boat suffered damage to its hull. The race was won by Hong Kong’s Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag.

“At this time, we are still assessing all of our options to return to the race,” co-skipper Charlie Enright said in a statement on Friday. “We once again thank everyone for their continued support.”

The statement said the team were in the process of coordinating repairs to the boat caused by the collision. The fleet is scheduled to leave for Auckland, New Zealand, on February 7 for the sixth leg of the 11-stop round the world race. And if the Vestas organisation is unable to have its boat repaired by that time, it will be difficult to rejoin the race at a later stage.

There was no further comment from the team beyond its statement.

There will be two races over the weekend, Saturday’s HGC In-Port Race and Sunday’s Around The Island Race. Results from the two races will be combined into one in the overall scoreboard.

Leg five on Wednesday is a 100-nm sprint to Guangzhou in which each boat scores one point. The six boats taking part in the weekend races are Hong Kong’s Scallywag, Spain’s overall leader Mapfre, China’s Dongfeng Race Team, Team AkzoNobel, Team Brunel and Turn The Tide on Plastic.

Vestas co-skipper Mark Towill said in the statement: “First and foremost, our thoughts and condolences are with the families affected by this tragic incident.”

Vestas was in second place in the race, some 30nm behind Scallywag when the incident occurred. According to Race Control, Vestas sent out a Mayday signal immediately after the accident and assisted Hong Kong Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in search and rescue operations.

The Vestas crew pulled one man out of the water. He was taken to hospital by helicopter but died hours later. Nine men were rescued by a nearby commercial vessel.

Race Control said Vestas had at no time requested assistance, although Team AkzoNobel, which was fourth before the accident, was asked to check on their rivals before completing its race.

The cause of the accident is still unknown and the identity of the fisherman who died is yet to be revealed.

Authorities are also investigating whether 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 ongoing investigation,” race director Phil Lawrence said after the accident.

“Both Vestas 11th Hour Racing and the Volvo Ocean Race will cooperate with the relevant authorities to establish what happened.”

He added that Race Control 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,” he said.