Team Vestas Wind will return to Volvo Ocean Race
Published on January 2nd, 2015
After Team Vestas Wind ran aground in the Indian Ocean on November 29 during the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, they have now announced they will repair their boat and return to the race.
Initial concerns that returning to the race might not be possible were overcome when skipper Chris Nicholson returned to Cargados Carajos Shoals three weeks later with shore crew and a salvage team to recover the boat and assessed that it was probably reparable.
“We got the boat off the reef in better condition than we thought possible,” Nicholson said. “There are large portions of the deck that can be reused and a lot of other components within the structure. We’ll rebuild our boat just as we rebuild our hopes and dreams.”
Nicholson admits the keel broke off and remains on the reef, a situation the team hopes to rectify, and they were forced to cut the mast to remove it. “The difficulty and the remoteness of where we were in the world left us few options. Even if this would have happened at Mauritius it would have been extremely difficult to remove the mast. There are no facilities and access to the boat was extremely restrictive.”
The damaged boat has now arrived in Malaysia after being picked up by a Maersk Line container ship that diverted to the area of the crash site in December. A thorough assessment of the damage will now be carried out and the Volvo Ocean 65 will soon be on its way to join Team Vestas Wind’s shore and sailing crewmembers to begin repairs at Persico Marine in Italy.
Persico was a member of a consortium of four boatyards that were involved in the Volvo Ocean 65 build process. The target is to have the boat ready for the final two legs of the 9-stage race, with the eighth leg beginning early June in Lisbon, Portugal.
Consideration was given to building a new boat but Nicholson explained how the timeline proved to be too long. “Repairing the existing boat is the most cost-effective option to allow us to get back into the race.”
As for what it will cost to get back in the race, Team Vestas Wind CEO Morten Albæk was not forthcoming. “We do not disclose the cost of repairing the boat, but the boat is insured, and we are confident our coverage will be sufficient to repair the boat and get it in race-ready condition.”
The transport of the boat from Maylasia is expected in Italy by late January, during which time Persico has begun building parts. Once the boat arrives, it is the plan that repairs and replacements can commence immediately. Nicholson estimates that 70 to 80 percent of the deck is still useable, with most of the hull damage on the starboard side. The amount of repair needed to the hull is now being determined.
Maintaining the one design standards will be a crucial part of the repair. “Class manager James Dadd, who monitored the complete build of the seven boats, will be included during the repair process at Persico,” explained race CEO Knut Frostad. “The biggest challenge of this repair project is that when completed, it remains a Volvo Ocean 65. Normally a repair would be adding weight to the boat, but this boat cannot be different than the others. There are very small tolerances on the weight and hull shape of the boat, so this will be our huge challenge to stay within these limits.”
Nicholson would not comment directly on any crew changes, specifically navigator Wouter Verbraak, only to say that a review all members of the team will occur in January. “At the moment, everyone on the team remains on contract, and we hope to involve them in rebuilding the boat and also in crew training on the previous generation Volvo 70.”
The long term future of the Team Vestas remains unclear. “Our focus for now is to get back into the race and make this comeback a success both commercially and competitively,” explains Albæk. “Then we will determine if this team continues in the next edition of the race. I think everybody understands that if we can have a great performance when we return to the race, it will become more likely that we will continue as a team.”
Below is an edited video by Team Vestas Wind from a media conference call on Friday, January 2.
Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11 with the final finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, seven teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series. The third offshore leg from Abu Dhabi, UAE to Sanya, China is 4,670 nm, with the start on Jan. 3 and the ETA on Jan. 23-31. Race website: http://www.volvooceanrace.com/en/home.html