Vestas 11th Hour Racing was sailing at 20 knots in second place of the Volvo Ocean Race Leg 4. Approximately 30 nm from the finish in Hong Kong they collided with a fishing vessel.
Race Control at Volvo Ocean Race headquarters was informed of the collision by the team moments after it happened at approximately 17:23 UTC on Friday January 19, 2018 (01:23 local time on Saturday morning). Vestas 11th Hour Racing immediately stopped racing, informed us at Race Control of the incident (at 1736 UTC), sent a Mayday distress signal on behalf of the other vessel and aided in the search and rescue mission.
The Volvo Race organizers asked Akzonobel, and later Dongfeng, to stand by. The fishing vessel sank. No injuries were reported for Vestas, however one of the ten fishermen was seriously injured and later died. Vestas was able to motor in to Hong Kong with the boat heeled to starboard to keep the holed bow out of the water. Some photos have been released:
The South China Sea is an extremely busy maritime area: one-third of the world’s shipping passes through it carrying over $3 trillion in trade each year.
There has been some criticism of Vestas for flying into crowded waters during the night at 20 knots. I have seen yacht racers get quite focused with their races. They often expect other boats to get out of their way – even though it’s not reasonable to expect that other vessels can maneuver well enough.
However we don’t know enough details about this collision. The incident is under investigation.