Volvo Ocean Race: How did deadly collision occur?

Published on January 21st, 2018

The tragic death of a fisherman, in a collision with Vestas 11th Hour Racing as they approached the finish line for Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race, leaves us wondering how this could happen. How could the very best offshore sailors, equipped with what we hope to be the very best navigation gear, kill someone?

We don’t know yet. Following the accident (at 17:23 on January 19 UTC), the team released a statement on January 20 and has informed Scuttlebutt they will not be making any additional comments for now. The Xinhua News Agency filed this report. Here are the basic facts:

• Fishing boat: Length not revealed, believed to have sunk.
• Fisherman: Ten onboard, all thrown overboard and all recovered with one fatality.
• Vestas: Crew uninjured. Boat suffered significant horizontal gash on port bow.
• Collision: 30 nm from finish (at 1:23 am on Jan. 20 local time), with tracker reporting Vestas was traveling at 20 knots in winds of 23 knots.

As one of the world’s busiest port cities, the waters of Hong Kong also serve a massive fishing community. Perhaps the cause of the accident rests on race organizers for asking 65-foot race boats to weave through this density at 20 knots.

On January 21, Phil Lawrence, Race Director for the Volvo Ocean Race, offered a few more nuggets:

What caused the collision? Was the other boat showing navigation lights, or using the AIS (Automatic Identification System)?

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

Could Race Control have prevented this accident by informing Vestas 11th Hour Racing of an imminent collision?

No. 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.

What happened with Dongfeng Race Team and team AkzoNobel in terms of them assisting with the rescue?

Dongfeng Race Team were the first race boat to be near the scene and they immediately offered to divert to assist. Race Control notified Dongfeng Race Team they could be released from the scene and at 1821 UTC Vestas 11th Hour Racing confirmed by email to Dongfeng Race Team that additional assistance was not required, so the team continued on to the finish.

Later, when team AkzoNobel arrived near the area on its route to the finish line, Race Control requested they stand by to support Vestas 11th Hour Racing as a precaution. Neither Vestas 11th Hour Racing nor the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre requested this assistance and once it was clear they were not required, Race Control released team AkzoNobel to finish the leg.

What happens next?

Along with Vestas 11th Hour Racing, we are actively working with the Hong Kong Police and the Maritime Authority to support the on-going investigation.


To see Leg 4 crew lists… click here.

The teams will leave Hong Kong on February 1 for a 100 nm Leg 5 to Guangzhou in China which will include a race on February 3 in the In-Port Series. The teams leave on February 5 to travel to Hong Kong for the start of the 6100 nm Leg 6 on February 7 to Auckland, New Zealand.

Area of accident using grab of AIS map at 12:24 AM (local time) on January 22.

Race detailsTrackerScoreboardRace routeFacebookYouTube

Leg 4 – Final Results
1. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), Finished on Jan 19 at 17:45:42 UTC
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), Finished on Jan 19 at 20:33:22 UTC
3. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), Finished on Jan 20 at 00:21:16 UTC
4. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), Finished on Jan 20 at 01:51:10 UTC
5. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), Finished on Jan 20 at 04:00:56 UTC
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), Finished on Jan 20 at 04:54:00 UTC
7. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Mark Towill (USA), Retired
DTF – Distance to Finish; DTL – Distance to Lead

Overall Results (after 4 of 11 legs)
1. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 33 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 29
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 23
4. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 19
5. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 17
6. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 14
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 8

2017-18 Edition: Entered Teams – Skippers
Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED)
Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA)
MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP)
Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA)
Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS)
Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR)
Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED)

Background: Racing the one design Volvo Ocean 65, the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race begins in Alicante, Spain on October 22 2017 with the final finish in The Hague, Netherlands on June 30 2018. In total, the 11-leg race will visit 12 cities in six continents: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, and The Hague. A maximum of eight teams will compete.

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