Time for Transparency is Now
Published on February 5th, 2018
by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
As the Volvo Ocean Race teams were on the final approach to the Leg 4 finish line in Hong Kong, the race organizers knew the peril they would face. These chaotic waters were well documented, filled with all forms of fishing boats that don’t show up on navigational tools.
The race has had stops in China since the 2008-9 contest, and while no collisions had previously occurred, tearing through fishing gear had proven to be a problem. But now returning for the fourth time, this accident waiting to happen… happened.
At 1:23am local time, fire-hose reaching at 20 knots, limiting visibility aboard the groaning 65-foot vessel, with only 30 nm to the finish, Vestas 11th Hour Racing collided with a fishing boat, sinking the boat, tossing the 10 onboard into the ocean, resulting in nine rescues and one fatality.
Sadly, this kind of incident is not uncommon. On the same day as the Vestas incident, a collision between a cargo vessel and a fishing boat sank the boat and led to one confirmed fatality and seven missing people.
Regardless of how frequent these types of events are in Asia, they are not common in our sport. It is vital for information to be shared so that gains can be made. However, both race organizers and the team have not been forthcoming. Oddly, little mention has even been made about the significant damage to the race boat.
While the team has already missed Leg 5 and In-Port races in Hong Hong and Guangzhou, they finally report how the time required for repairs means the team will not be rejoining the race on February 7 for the 6100 nm Leg 6 from Hong Kong to Auckland, New Zealand. Instead, the damaged yacht has been loaded onto a freight vessel in Hong Kong to be repaired in Auckland.
“The challenge of the damage, the exacting standards set by the Volvo Ocean 65 One Design rule, and the timing of the race provided limited choices, and it was concluded that the repair could not be carried out in Hong Kong.
“The only viable option was to ship the boat and equipment to New Zealand ahead of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet and carry out the necessary repairs there. This includes having a new bow section built at Persico Marine in Italy, in compliance with the Volvo Ocean 65 class rule, which will then be shipped to New Zealand.
“The team aims to have repairs completed during the stopover in Auckland, in time for inshore racing and the start of Leg 7 to Itajaí, Brazil, which is scheduled for March 18.”
However, there are many more questions for which answers are needed. For an event that positions itself as one of the sport’s ‘Big Three’ events, alongside the Olympics and America’s Cup, silence is not golden. To embrace the sports fan, you cannot choose what you share. If the race wants to stay relevant, the time for transparency is now.
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.
Source: Volvo Ocean Race