November 30, 2014 – Team Alvimedica has resumed racing today toward Abu Dhabi, after diverting yesterday afternoon to stand by until early morning today to assist in the rescue of fellow Volvo Ocean Race competitor Team Vestas Wind after they ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
Team Alvimedica, who remained nearby (within 4,500 meters) in visual and radio contact with Team Vestas Wind and local Coast Guard officials until the rescue was safely completed, was not required to assist in the actual evacuation of the crew to shore.
The Vestas crew, who were not injured in the grounding, first abandoned the Volvo Ocean 65 to two life rafts before being rescued by a local coast guard center console boat for transfer safely to shore on Ile de Sud, part of the Carados Carajos Shoals northeast of Mauritius.
Shortly after Team Alvimedica had returned to racing this morning, skipper Charlie Enright reflected on the dramatic chain of events. “Last night we acted as a relay between the Coast Guard and Team Vestas Wind. We stood by and logged the events as they transpired. We also acted as a go-between because often times the Coast Guard and Vestas had trouble directly communicating due to range issues and the fact that Vestas was on a hand-held VHF. They boarded their own life rafts and anchored them to a rock before they were picked up this morning,” Enright reported.
Team Alvimedica was prepared to welcome the nine team members from Vestas on board their racing yacht in the morning once they were rescued form the reef. “Originally, when Nico (Vestas skipper Chris Nicholson) didn’t have any information, he was going to board our boat to re-group. We even made them a meal. But after talking to the locals, they discovered that there’s a supply boat coming tomorrow (to Ile du Sud) and that they had food and accommodation for the night so they released us to continue sailing.”
Enright says it was a surreal night but not until the morning did the enormity of it sink in. “I can only imagine what it must have been like for Vestas to hit that reef – from sailing to a dead stop, losing your rudders, taking on water, abandoning your ship, wading across said reef in knee-high waters, while towing your two life rafts behind you…wow. None of it really sets in until you see the boat on the bricks at day break.”
For Team Alvimedica, their only concern throughout the ordeal was the safety of their fellow competitors. “The only thing that matters, was that everyone was ok, they are our competitors and our friends but in addition to that we are each other’s support networks when we are sailing in remote corners of the world,” Enright said.
Team Alvimedica now returns to race mode as they set their sights once again on the Leg Two finish line in Abu Dhabi. “It’s hard to switch gears, but once we were assured of the safety of the Vestas crew, it was time to continue on to Abu Dhabi. Although racing was secondary last night, it has once again become our primary focus.”
Enright gave his crew high marks for the way they handled the situation. “I am proud of how our crew conducted themselves during our assistance of Vestas. Will Oxley (navigator), who’s been through his fair share of marine mishaps, helped run the procedures and communications and did an excellent job.”
Watch a video of navigator Will Oxley explaining the rescue of Team Vestas Wind here.