Thursday, January 22nd, 2015


Nicholson’s decision to fire Wouter makes me a little sad, but it isn’t really surprising, given some of the statements Nico has made since the grounding. I don’t think he (Nico) really appreciates the extent to which he himself contributed to the accident.

What happened to Vestas Wind doesn’t prove that Wouter was a bad navigator. It proves he was a human being. Nico failed to provide the kind of oversight and supervision that is an essential, non-delegable responsibility of the skipper when it comes to basic vessel safety. By handing off all navigational responsibilities to Wouter, Nico created a single point of failure. Yes, Wouter made a bad mistake. But he was operating in circumstances that predictably produce mistakes. It was Nico’s job as skipper to be the final backstop to prevent those mistakes from costing them the boat.

Anyway, Wouter’s out, and if Vestas returns to the race for the last few legs it will be with a different navigator. He won’t be superhuman; he may or may not be a better navigator than Wouter. Hopefully his skipper will have learned from his experience on Leg 2, and will do a better job of taking care of his boat.

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Vestas Wind returning to the VOR

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Vestas Wind returning to the VOR:

Team Vestas Wind announced in Abu Dhabi today that they _will_ rejoin the race. Details are thin at this point, but there should be more information coming at a Vestas press conference after the in-port race tomorrow.

Hints from Alan Block (Mr. Clean of Sailing Anarchy), who’s in Abu Dhabi and has talked to all the principals in the last few days, seem to imply that they won’t be back any earlier than Lisbon (letting them do the last two legs) or Lorient (letting them do the last leg). Chris Nicholson will be the skipper, and will decide who will be in the crew. The “redemption” theme they’re talking about might favor the idea that the crew will be unchanged; i.e., that Wouter will return as navigator.

Which would make me very happy.

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theonlyholmesjb: The year could not have started off better,…

Thursday, January 1st, 2015


The year could not have started off better, first a good show at the 4 Hills ski Jumping Tournee, and then this. 

For those of you who do not follow sailing, the Volvo Ocean Race is one of the toughest races in the world. It is sailed over nine months, with nine sailing legs, this year starting from Spain around the world and finishing in Sweden. 

On the night of the 29th of november, Team Vestas Wind ran aground on a coral reef near Mauritius. The closest inhabited area was around 200nMiles from them by boat. They were stranded there on a boat that was badly wrecked. Team Alvimedica, who were the closest to them, stopped racing in order to help them, they stayed with them till the morning when Team Vestas had some control over the situation. Once help arrived they got back to the mainland. Thankfully no one had serious injuries. Even just being a supporter I was not only worried for the sailors, but once the fright  for the sailors well being and shock was dealt with, I was heartbroken for them. I cannot begin to imagine how they and their families must have felt.

Once their shore team had everything sorted out they came back and cleaned the place up, so as not to mess up the environment. For a long time it was not certain they could come back into the race. But today the team CEO said they would be back. For me, this is brilliant news, I cannot wait to see the guys and the blue boat back on the water. 

p.s. i have not put up any of the pictures of the grounded boat, because i prefer never to see those kind of images again.

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As soon as I heard what had happened to Vestas Wind, I was…

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

As soon as I heard what had happened to Vestas Wind, I was worried about how the experience would affect Wouter Verbraak, the boat’s navigator. Here’s the first detailed public interview he’s done since the incident, with English subtitles.

It’s still not clear if the team is going to be able to rejoin the race at a later stage with a rebuilt boat, and it’s not clear if Wouter will be offered a place on the team if they do. But I hope they do, and he is.

This could have happened to anyone. Scapegoating Wouter for an error that was as much a process failure and a software failure as it was a navigator failure would be wrong.

Blaming people doesn’t solve problems. Acknowledging mistakes and learning from them solves problems.

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Off the rocks

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Off the rocks:

Pretty cool. Recovering the hull means they can potentially use part of it (the deck, probably) as part of building a new boat and possibly rejoining the race at a later leg.

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newyorker: The Volvo Ocean Race runs over nine months,…

Thursday, December 11th, 2014


The Volvo Ocean Race runs over nine months, thirty-nine-thousand miles, four oceans, and six continents. This year, one boat became the twentieth in the race’s history not to make the finish. John Clarke reports on the twenty-first-century shipwreck.

Photograph courtesy Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race

A brief article about the Vestas wreck from The New Yorker. It gets a few small details toward the end slightly wrong, but overall a nice job of summarizing what happened.

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Brian Carlin describes the grounding of Vestas Wind.

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Brian Carlin describes the grounding of Vestas Wind.

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Vestas Wind launching, August, 2014 The last Volvo Ocean 65 to…

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Vestas Wind launching, August, 2014

The last Volvo Ocean 65 to be launched before the start of the race, Vestas Wind was lost on the Cargados Carajos reef on November 29, 2014.

It’s human nature to personify inanimate objects, invest them with agency, pretend they’re alive. It’s not rational. But with a sailboat it comes closer to being true than with anything else I know.

Vestas Wind graced the oceans of the world for less than four months; too short a time for such a beautiful creation.

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We finally have means of communications… – Wouter Verbraak Sailing | Facebook

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

We finally have means of communications… – Wouter Verbraak Sailing | Facebook:

Earlier tonight Wouter made a brief post on Facebook. It confirms what a lot of commenters on Sailing Anarchy and elsewhere had been speculating about the underlying causes of the grounding: fatigue, time pressure, a last-minute course alteration, and the misfeature of the boat’s electronic charting software obscuring relevant detail (including the presence of a 50-km reef) at lower zoom levels.

Something I’ve seen repeatedly over the past few days are people willing to glibly say Wouter must have been guilty of “gross negligence”. That term carries extra weight because of its use in legal proceedings, but some of those using it seem to think it’s just another way of saying “a mistake that had really bad consequences, and that I don’t believe I would ever have made myself.”

Something else I’ve noticed: commenters’ willingness to assert that appears to be negatively correlated with their level of personal experience with long-distance offshore racing navigation.

Everyone makes mistakes. Wouter’s was a really bad one, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a prudent, competent, careful navigator. It just means that even a prudent, competent, careful navigator, under precisely the wrong set of circumstances, can screw up in a big way. He failed his team. But his tools, and the system of oversight that needs to be in place to prevent unavoidable human error from spiraling into catastrophe, also failed him.

No one died. A few people got scrapes and bruises, but otherwise there were no injuries. Hopefully the lessons learned will help save other boats, and other lives, in the future.

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The loss of Vestas Wind The first video to be released of Vestas…

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

The loss of Vestas Wind

The first video to be released of Vestas Wind running aground on the Cargados Carajos Shoals.

Warning: The clip begins with on-board footage from the stern camera as the boat hits the reef. None of the crew were injured, but for someone who loves boats it’s hard to watch. There’s some bad language, too.

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Volvo update as of December 3 The fleet (reduced to six now,…

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Volvo update as of December 3

The fleet (reduced to six now, sadly) continues to race north through the Indian Ocean. It’s been hot and nearly windless, with the boats coming together in a belt of calms south of the equator, and another belt of calms (the doldrums proper? I’m not very knowledgeable about Indian Ocean wind patterns) waiting north of them.

ADOR has been clinging to a small lead, with Brunel and Dongfeng a few miles behind and even closer to each other. Seriously; Yann on Dongfeng has been getting great shots of the boats racing side by side for the last few days. Get a room, you two!

Mapfre had been more or less leading up until a couple of days ago, but then they decided the wind looked better to the east and took a big hitch that way. They said in interviews that they expected the rest of the fleet to follow, but no; the rest of the fleet just watched them go. They lost some ground, then made some of it back, but I think on balance the move east looks like a mistake.

Further back, SCA (who had been following the leaders up the middle) and Alvimedica (who had gone west) recently swapped places, so now it’s Alvimedica in the middle and SCA to the west. Alvimedica has been making up ground, and they still have a make-good coming for the night they spent helping with the Vestas rescue. No word yet on what form that make-good will take.

The Vestas crew, having chosen to stay a second day on their desert island to pull more gear off the wreck, have now been brought back to Mauritius by fishing boat. That’s navigator Wouter Verbraak on the left in the last photo above. The crew still hasn’t given a lot of detail; supposedly they’ll be flying to Abu Dhabi shortly, and there will be a press conference there this weekend. I want to hear Wouter’s account of what happened, but I’m not really looking forward to it. I feel for what he must have been going through.

The Vestas Wind sponsors have been saying some interesting things. They may try to come up with a way for the team to rejoin the race with a new boat. I counted up days from today until the start of the upcoming legs, and got this:

  • 29 days until Leg 3 start (Abu Dhabi to Sanya — plus 6 more legs after)
  • 65 days until Leg 4 start (Sanya to Auckland — plus 5 more legs)
  • 100 days until Leg 5 start (Auckland to Itajai — plus 4 more legs)
  • 135 days until Leg 6 start (Itajai to Newport — plus 3 more legs)
  • 163 days until Leg 7 start (Newport to Lisbon — plus 2 more legs)

Assuming they’re willing to build a new boat, I wonder how long it would take. According to the official VOR site, building a Volvo Ocean 65 normally takes 7 months. Could they speed it up? If they could do it in 100 days they could be on the starting line for Leg 5 in Auckland.

They’d be way behind in terms of the overall standings, with a DNF in Leg 2 and a DNS in each of legs 3 and 4. But I’m not sure how much that matters. I don’t think sponsors really care about winning the race per se. They care about exposure, and goodwill, and favorable publicity. If they could get a new boat on the starting line for Leg 5, the media would love it. There’d be the “race to reach the starting line”, the skipper and crew’s “race for redemption”, etc.

 It’d be dramatic. It’d be interesting. I’d sure watch it.

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The wreck of Vestas Wind, photographed December 1,…

Monday, December 1st, 2014

The wreck of Vestas Wind, photographed December 1, 2014.

Details from the VOR site:

Neil Cox, shore manager of the Danish team, said: “The photo paints a pretty graphic picture of what’s going on out there. The picture tells 1,000 words.”

He said his focus was still the security of the nine members of the crew.

“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.”

Cox said that sail ropes, fluids, electronics and hardware had been taken off the boat.

The nine-strong crew abandoned ship in the early hours of Sunday morning after the collision at 19 knots at 1510 GMT the previous day and waded 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.

The islet has very little communications with the outside world and the crew are awaiting transportation back to Mauritius. This is expected to happen within the next 24 hours.

The National Coast Guard of the Maritime Rescue Co-operation Centre (MRCC) of Mauritius took the pictures as part of its usual operations after such an incident.

The crew have received food packages via an airdrop from a coastguard plane. It confirmed that all were uninjured in the collision.

From the satellite phone interview with skipper Chris Nicholson yesterday:

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 just on the deep water side where the keel was jammed in the rocks on the deep water side and the boat was being beaten by those complete point break waves. We had to just hang on through that with the boat breaking up around us, and still we kind of literally found and landed our way just onto the reef. So even then we still couldn’t get off, not safely.

And then towards daylight, like two hours just before daylight, the bulb broke off and the boat leaned over heavily. While that was happening we probably lost the back of the boat, it was gone, missing, and the deck started to fold and the boat was heeling over more so I made the decision that we were getting off.

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“Wouter is a navigator, one of the best, and firmly falls into the category of a superb yachtsman and…”

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

Wouter is a navigator, one of the best, and firmly falls into the category of a superb yachtsman and navigator. One who understands the strengths and limitations of digital tools more than most will ever do. And one of the nicest guys in the sport to boot.

Mistakes happen. Just glad they are all safe and uninjured.

Campbell Field

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Vestas Wind on the reef at Cargados Carajos shoals, Mauritius,…

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

Vestas Wind on the reef at Cargados Carajos shoals, Mauritius, shortly after sunrise on November 30, 2014. The photos were taken from Alvimedica, on the west side of the reef, and posted to the @TeamAlvimedica Twitter account.

After the Vestas crew were successfully rescued and had reached shore, Alvimedica resumed racing toward Abu Dhabi.

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anonsally replied to your photo:Vestas Wind So the boat is broken—is it beyond repair? Will they get…

Saturday, November 29th, 2014
anonsally replied to your photo:Vestas Wind

So the boat is broken—is it beyond repair? Will they get a new boat for the next leg? (I assume they have to abandon this leg?)

Based on the small amount of information to come out so far, there is a tiny chance that the boat can still be saved. If that happens, the team could make repairs and ship the boat to a future stopover — maybe Auckland? — so the crew could resume racing there.

But it’s unlikely. The location where they went aground is too remote, and every hour that passes before a salvage vessel reaches the scene reduces their chances. It was near high tide when they went aground, which may have bought them a few hours, but the weather shore of a coral reef with an ocean swell breaking on it is not a place where a boat can survive for long.

There is no other boat for them to use. The race is strictly one-design, and only seven Volvo Ocean 65s have ever been built. There has been talk of building several more for the next race three years from now (along with re-using the current ones), assuming the race can attract sufficient sponsors for that. But for this race, Team Vestas Wind is probably done.

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Vestas Wind

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

Vestas Wind

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Team Vestas Wind update 0300 UTC

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

Team Vestas Wind update 0300 UTC:

Race Control has had it confirmed that the Team Vestas Wind crew has now been rescued and will stay on the Íle du Sud, where there is a house and some facilities. All the crew is safe and nobody is injured.

Team Vestas Wind is making plans with Volvo Ocean Race on how to transport the crew off the island as well as how to salvage the boat.

Team Alvimedica has now been released and will continue racing towards Abu Dhabi.

Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, said: “I’m extremely relieved that every one of the nine crew members now are safe and that nobody is injured. That has always been our first priority since we first learned about the grounding.

“At the same time, I’m deeply saddened that this happened to Team Vestas Wind and Chris Nicholson and his team. It’s devastating for the team, for the race and for everyone involved. I really feel for Chris and the team right now and we will continue to support them all the way going forward.”

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Video updates regarding Vestas Wind

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

Some new videos have been posted that give a little more information about what’s going on aboard Vestas Wind and Alvimedica.

  • Call With Charlie Enright Regarding Team Vestas Wind Grounding (official VOR channel) – Genny Tulloch in Alicante interviews skipper Charlie Enright aboard Alvimedica. Alvimedica is currently motoring a few miles away from the wreck, just on the other (downwind) side of the reef.
  • A Long Night Ahead – Team Alvimedica Talk with Team Vestas (Alvimedica channel) – On-board video from Alvimedica, including radio conversations between them and the crew aboard Vestas.
  • Dongfeng Race Team’s reaction to Team Vestas Wind running aground (Dongfeng channel) – Comments by bowman Kevin Escoffier and skipper Charles Caudrelier aboard Dongfeng. Caudrelier’s comments, in particular, shed light on their own (late) discovery of the islands in their path: You have to zoom in closely in the navigational software to even see that the islands are there. In the old-school style of navigation I did growing up, you have to refer to the large-scale chart, not just the small-scale chart. I guess it’s an example of the sneaky way that technological advance can create new risks. Electronic charts are superior in many ways, but the old technology had centuries of hard-won experience baked into it. It takes time (and tragedies like this) to relearn old lessons when the technology changes.

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The final video update from Vestas Wind. I think of all of them,…

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

The final video update from Vestas Wind.

I think of all of them, Vestas was the prettiest. It’s too soon to mourn the boat, and the safety of the crew currently waiting for sunrise to escape the wreck is obviously way more important.

But it’s still sad.

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Current status of Vestas Wind There isn’t much information…

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

Current status of Vestas Wind

There isn’t much information available so far. Below the cut is a timeline of what happened when, with timestamps in UTC and local (Mauritius) time.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

0200 UTC (0700 Mauritius): Yann Riou on Dongfeng quotes skipper Charles Caudrelier in a tweet: “@Ccaudrelier : an island in the middle of nowhere, but in the middle of our course. Small navigation error that costs us 2 miles.” Dongfeng was about 50 miles south of the archipelago at the time, making me suspect that they picked up the problem from their charts, rather than from a visual sighting (though I guess it’s possible they spotted a cloud pattern that alerted them to the islands’ presence).

1054 UTC (1554 Mauritius): Yann on Dongfeng tweets the top photo above, saying, “Can’t find the name of the archipelago we sail along. But it looks nice… #dfrt #vor”.

1510 UTC (2010 Mauritius): Vestas contacts Volvo Race Control to tell them they’ve run aground. (Maybe? The wording of the subsequent announcement from Volvo Race Control implies that the contact took place at 1510. But it may be that it was the actual grounding that took place at 1510.)

1525 UTC (2025 Mauritius): The “live” tracker app, which shows boatspeed and heading averaged over the previous 15 minutes, shows a sudden drop of speed on Vestas from 18 knots to 8 knots for this time. That tracker data is not yet publicly visible, however.

1645 UTC (2145 Mauritius): The “live” tracker app data updates to show the 1525 speed drop by Vestas, with the boat’s track subsequently dropping to 1.3 knots of indicated boatspeed and an odd SE heading. User Alinghi4ever on the Sailing Anarchy forums points out the anomaly.

1702 UTC (2202 Mauritius): User grandsoleil on Sailing Anarchy correlates the boat’s position with Google Maps imagery on the fan tracker maintained by user Volodia, speculating that Vestas may be on the reef.

1843 UTC (2343 Mauritius): The official Volvo Ocean Race site posts and tweets a link to the first official announcement:

At 1510 UTC, Saturday, November 29, Team Vestas Wind informed Race Control that their boat was grounded on the Cargados Carajos Shoals, Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. Fortunately, no one has been injured.

We are in contact with the boat to establish the extent of the damage and ensure the crew is given the support needed to enable it to deal with the situation.

The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Reunion Island is aware of the problem.

The crew has informed us that it is currently grounded on a reef but nobody is injured. Volvo Ocean Race and Team Vestas Wind’s top priority is to make sure the crew is safe.

The crew has informed Race organisers that it now plans to abandon the boat as soon as possible after daybreak.

Team Alvimedica and two other vessels are in contact with Team Vestas Wind to assist.

We will give you more information as it becomes available.

2030 UTC (0130 Mauritius): Official site issues the following update:

Team Alvimedica has now arrived at the site, is in radio contact with Team Vestas Wind and standing by to assist Team Vestas Wind, waiting for daylight.

Race Control is in contact with Team Vestas Wind every hour. The situation is currently stable on board and the crew plans to remain on board until daylight.

There is also contact established with a coastguard station on Isle de Sud, approximately 1.5 km from the boat, which has a RIB available.

The plan is for this vessel to assist in abandoning the boat as soon as possible after daylight.

Both rudders have been reported broken by the Team Vestas Wind crew. The team has also reported water ingress in the stern compartment.

The Volvo Ocean 65 has watertight bulkheads in the bow and the stern. The remaining part of the boat is intact including the rig.

We will update as soon as we have further information. 

2140 UTC (0240 Mauritius): Official tracker update and Volodia fan tracker (bottom image above) shows Alvimedica standing by to assist on the west side of the reef, while SCA, having been informed their assistance isn’t needed, sails past the location of the grounding to the east.

2145 UTC (0245 Mauritius): Official site issues the following update:

Team Vestas Wind reported that they had now deployed two life rafts as the stern of the boat was being beaten on rocks of the reef. The bow is pointing out to sea.

The team added that they were keeping the life rafts some 15 metres from the boat, which the crew could reach if necessary.

There were no plans to do this yet but the life rafts had been deployed now as they may not be able to do so later.

The current plan remains to abandon the boat at daylight with the assistance of the coastguard at Íle du Sud as well as Team Alvimedica.

We will update you further as more details become available.

2341 UTC (0423 Mauritius): Official VOR YouTube channel posts a video of CEO Knut Frostad summarizing the situation.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

0119 UTC (0619 Mauritius): (Roughly 1.5 hours from now, at the time I’m posting this.) Local sunrise. This is the time when the local coast guard authorities (who reportedly have a rigid inflatable boat with twin engines on the island nearby) have requested the Vestas crew be prepared to abandon the vessel.

And that’s pretty much it as of now. There’s no official word about trying to salvage the boat. Doing so before it breaks up would probably require a decent-sized seagoing tug, which might not be possible to get on-site fast enough. But for now all the focus is (rightly) on rescuing the crew.

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