ALICANTE, Spain (Reuters) – A nine-man Volvo Ocean Race crew were forced to abandon their boat in the early hours of Sunday after it was badly damaged when it became grounded on a reef in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Danish entry Team Vestas Wind was running in fourth place in Leg 2 between Cape Town and Abu Dhabi when the collision happened close to the tiny archipelago of St Brandon, 430km to the north-east of Mauritius, at just after 1500 GMT on Saturday.
The incident occurred in a part of the Indian Ocean known for being well populated by sharks.
The order to abandon the 4.75 million euro ($5.92 million) boat was given by Australian skipper Chris Nicholson around 0000 GMT and he led his team, wading knee deep through the waves in darkness, to a rock which provided them a dry place to shelter.
A small boat from the nearby coastguard at Ile du Sud then picked them up just after daybreak and took them to the tiny islet where they rested after their ordeal.
Another boat in the race, Team Alvimedica (Turkey/US) stopped racing and sped to the area where Vestas was grounded to assist if necessary. It was later cleared to resume after Nicholson confirmed that none of his crew were injured and had been safely rescued.
“I’m extremely relieved that every one of the nine crew members now are safe and that nobody is injured,” race CEO Knut Frostad said. “That has always been our first priority since we first learned about the grounding.
“I really feel for Chris and the team right now and we will continue to support them all the way going forward.”
Five people have lost their lives taking part in the race since it started in 1973.