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Tragedy Strikes in VOR

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The Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag team won Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race in Hong Kong on Friday.

© Pedro Martinez / Volvo Ocean Race

When the bulk of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet descended on Hong Kong on the early hours of Saturday morning, there was much reason for celebration. Local entry Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag’s fortunes had turned. A lucky break when exiting the doldrums meant that they reached the breeze first and had pulled out to a commanding lead en route to winning their first leg of the VOR. Fellow Chinese entry Dongfeng had fought hard and was poised to finish on the podium in third place, behind Vestas/11th Hour Racing. Tragedy struck however, when second-placed Vestas/11th Hour Racing was approximately 30 miles from the finish line.

The Vestas/11th Hour Racing crew packs the sails away on approach to Hong Kong.

© Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

The Danish/American entry collided with a fishing boat at around 2 a.m. local time while sailing at 20 knots of boat speed in 20 knots of breeze, sinking the fishing boat. In the pre-dawn hours, the team sailed a back-and-forth downwind zig-zag pattern, which can be clearly seen on the tracker. With 10 bodies in the water, it was nothing short of a miracle that Vestas/11th Hour Racing was able to recover all of the fishermen. Tragically however, one of the fishermen perished as a result of the incident. While his exact time of death is uncertain — we don’t know whether he was even alive when he was plucked from the water, or when he was airlifted from the deck of Vestas/11th Hour by a helicopter — the result remains the same: When the Volvo Ocean Race fleet sailed into Hong Kong, a fishing boat was sunk, and a life was lost.

"Hong Kong" is buried under AIS hits in this image of vessel traffic in the region. It would be tricky to navigate through these crowded waters at night while underway at 5 knots — let alone 20.

© 2018

While the racing crew reported no injuries and that all were safe onboard, their Volvo 65 monohull did sustain damage, with a large hole in the port bow. Retiring from the leg, the Vestas/11th Hour team canted the keel to starboard to heel the boat and then motored to the finish line. Many details of the incident are still unknown to the public at this time, and there’s plenty of red tape involved with the loss of life and requisite investigation by the Hong Kong Police and Maritime Authority. Our most sincere condolences go out to the families of the fishermen, the Vestas/11th Hour Racing team and all involved.

The hole in the bow of the Volvo 65.

© 2018 Volvo Ocean Race

With Vestas’ retirement, Dongfeng moved up to second place to make it a Chinese boat 1-2 with AkzoNobel third and race leader MAPRE in fourth. Brunel barely managed to hold off Turn the Tide on Plastic. The fleet will sail a ‘transitional leg’ from Hong Kong to nearby Guangzhou (Canton) in Southern China for a full stopover, where each team will be awarded one point before sailing back to Hong Kong. On February 7, the fleet will begin a 6,100-mile leg from Hong Kong to Auckland, another tactically challenging and long leg. There is no word yet on whether Vestas/11th Hour Racing will depart Hong Kong with the rest of the fleet as there are repairs to be done to the boat, as well as pending legal matters.

Giovanni Soldini and crew sailed out of Hong Kong on January 18 en route to London in their latest record attempt.

Maserati
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Departing Hong Kong just days before the Volvo Ocean Race fleet sailed in, our old friends on Giovanni Soldini’s MOD 70 Maserati are currently underway in their quest to break Gitana 13’s ‘Tea Trade’ record from Hong Kong to London. Just over four days into the attempt, the team has gotten off to a cracking start and is more than 500 miles in advance of record pace. Having just crossed the equator, the Italian trimaran is currently approaching the Sunda Strait in Indonesia, which will dump them into the Indian Ocean and beyond.

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