Stranded Team Vestas Wind race crew finally escape island

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 02, 2014 12:49 PM

ALICANTE, Spain (Reuters) - Chris Nicholson’s stranded Team Vestas Wind crew are finally on their way back to civilization after two days sitting on remote “sand pit” in the Indian Ocean where there was a risk of shark encounters.

The Volvo Ocean Race team dramatically grounded their boat after ploughing into a reef on St Brandon archipelago on Saturday at 19 knots and were forced to abandon it in the early hours of the following day, before wading through knee-deep water to a dry position.

They were then picked up by a coastguard boat from the nearly Íle du Sud, a near deserted islet with no communications with the outside world.

The islet is serviced weekly by a 20-metre fishing vessel, called ‘Eliza', from Mauritius, which is some 430 kilometres away to the south-west. A trip to the holiday island takes more than a day to complete.

Australian skipper Nicholson’s nine-strong team finally were on their way after taking the ‘Eliza’ on Tuesday. From there, they plan to fly to Abu Dhabi at the end of the week.

Neil Cox, the team’s shore crew chief, told on Tuesday: “We’ve had nine guys sitting on a sand pit in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

“You’d think it’s a bad movie. You sit there and talk to the coast guard and they’re telling us about everything we’re dealing with on the technical side, then they’re asking me to warn the guys that the reef is riddled full of sharks and barracuda and God knows what else.”

The team will arrive in Mauritius mid-morning on Wednesday with literally the clothes they have on their backs, Cox said.

“The coast guard here did a flyover yesterday and they parachuted in cans of Coke and chocolate and cookies," he said.

The incident happened on leg two of nine in the nine-month offshore marathon which will finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. The team are hoping to retrieve the boat from the reef but there is a big question mark over whether it can be repaired to return to the race.

(editing by Justin Palmer)