News & Views

VESTAS WIND SHIPWRECK: Post Mortem With Embarrassing Personal Recollection

Verbraak navigatin

You know something really big has gone on in the sailing world when even The New Yorker magazine feels they have to say something about it. The grounding and abandonment of Team Vestas Wind has been a major publicity coup, for both the Volvo Ocean Race and the boat's sponsor, Vestas Wind, made all the sweeter by the fact of the happy ending: no one was seriously injured. The cause of the accident has been pretty clearly identified. The Cargados Carajos Shoals were in an exclusion zone that was opened to the fleet the night before they started leg 2 of the race out of Cape Town. Vestas navigator Wouter Verbraak (see image up top) wasn't aware that the shoals were directly on the route north to Abu Dhabi, didn't have time to fully scope out the new track before the start, and assumed he'd be able to do so while racing the leg. In the end he never zoomed in close enough on his electronic chart to see the shoals, and the crew sailed right on to the reef at night having no idea it was there.

This obviously was a stupid mistake, and Verbraak, to his credit, has openly confessed to it. The boat's skipper Chris Nicholson likewise has accepted full responsibility for what happened and recently gave two long interviews—one in print with Sail-World (a big three-parter that starts here) and one on video with Sailing Anarchy. These are both well worth your attention.

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CRUISE INTERRUPTED: Young Swedes Shipwrecked on Easter Island

Frivarv wrecked

Ah, to be young again. That's what I'm wishing after reading this account of two young Swedes, Melvin Svensson and Emil Warme, who were shipwrecked on Easter Island (called Rapa Nui by locals) this past August after their Carter Concubine 33 Frivarv was driven ashore at Ahu Tongariki (see photo up top). I was shipwrecked once in my younger days, but that was in Spain, a very civilized, well populated place. These guys lost their boat literally in the middle of nowhere. Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands on the planet. The nearest inhabited land, Pitcairn Island, with a population of just 50, is almost 1,300 miles away, and the nearest continent, South America, is about 2,220 miles away.

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MAYDAY: Liveaboard Sailor Swept Offshore and Rescued 12 Days After Making Call

Ron rescued

Ron Ingraham, a 67-year-old fisherman who had been living aboard his Bayfield 25 Malia on Molokai in Hawaii, was rescued Tuesday by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, 12 days after first trying to call for help on a jury-rigged VHF radio and a week after a search for him had been called off. News reports have it that Ron's ordeal started when he was unable to enter Kaumalapau Harbor on the west coast of the island of Lanai, south of Molokai, due to a strong northwest swell. If you watch the TV interview with him here, however, it seems clear to me what actually happened was he was anchored at Kaumalapau and had to bail out because of the swell (note he refers to having to "cut his ropes" to avoid going up on the rocks just before dark).

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VOLVO OCEAN RACE: Supernatural Bird Attack and Vestas Grounding Video

Bird attack

The birds are not happy with Team Alvimedica, who stood by so selflessly at Cargados Carajos Shoals waiting to help their shipwrecked mates on Team Vestas Wind. I read somewhere the other day that Cargados Carajos actually means something like Bird Excrement Island, so I'm wondering if that is relevant. What happened evidently is the boat was mobbed yesterday right around sunset by a huge gang of black noddy terns.

You needn't take my word for it, you can watch the video right here:

Very bizarre. Only time I've ever seen birds behave like this is around fishing boats.

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AMERICA'S CUP: Why Not Bermuda?

Bermuda announcement

Since word first leaked out two weeks ago that Bermuda would be selected to host the 35th America's Cup in 2017 there has been a drumbeat of criticism in the sailing community. People saying the island doesn't have the infrastructure to support the event, that the sailing conditions are not adequate, that it would be a travesty for an American defender to defend the Cup in foreign waters, and mostly, it seems, that the "real reason" Larry Ellison wants his Oracle Team USA to defend the Cup in Bermuda is because of its status as an international tax haven. Well, today the rumor became official, Bermuda IS the venue, and funnily enough not one member of the media attending the press conference in New York had the cojones to ask a single question about taxes.

Why is that? Why is it that people do nothing but bitch, bitch, bitch about the way the America's Cup is run, no matter who is running it, no matter how it's being run? And when someone who has strong opinions about the Cup finally gets a chance to actually do something about it, even just to ask a simple question in public, they gape and do nothing?

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VOLVO OCEAN RACE: Team Vestas Wind Wrecked

Vestas aground

Here's one way to get cruising sailors interested in the ongoing Volvo Ocean Race--have one competitor pile up on a reef at night in the middle of nowhere. It was definitely NOT a happy Thanksgiving holiday weekend for the crew on the VOR65 Team Vestas Wind, as they hit Cargados Carajos Shoals (a.k.a. Saint Brandon Shoals) 200 miles north of Mauritius on Saturday while racing in leg 2 of the Volvo race, from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi. Reportedly, they were making 18 knots at the time.

Ouch! This is why crew on these boats always fall asleep in their berths with their feet facing bulkheads.

Another competitor, Team Alvimedica, which has since resumed racing, stood by the grounded boat for several hours until all the crew were safely off and local authorities arrived on the scene. The Vestas crew, who initially had to evacuate on to the reef itself, are now all ashore and are plotting how best to salvage their vessel.

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STANLEY PARIS: Record-Breaking Non-Stop Solo Circumnavigation, Take Two

Kiwi Spirit

Let the record reflect (no pun intended) that on November 9, just one day after I finally departed Bermuda aboard Lunacy, Dr. Stanley Paris left Fort Lauderdale on his second attempt to circle the globe non-stop aboard his fancy custom performance-cruising sled Kiwi Spirit. I'm not really sure how I feel about this. I mean, I think it's great he's trying again, but I'm not sure I'm interested in the voyage. What I am, frankly, is a little annoyed that Dr. Paris has never given us a coherent account of what went wrong on his last attempt. I don't see how he can expect us to follow his exploits when he doesn't bother to tell us what's really going on.

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ALBERT'S NEW BOAT: OPO Makes a Difference in Dominica

Albert's boat profile

Hank Schmitt of Offshore Passage Opportunities first met Albert the first time he pulled into Dominica while sailing the West Indies several years back. He was the very first islander Hank met, so he took him on as his "boat boy," though of course Albert is no boy, being all of 47 years old with three grown kids. "What struck me was how Albert was like any dad," says Hank. "His kids are in nursing school and high school, and his oldest is working in the construction business, but they would come down to the docks and Albert would empty his pockets to give them money almost as fast as he was making it. Just like any other struggling family man."

Hank visited Dominica regularly, and when he learned Albert's daughter in nursing school needed a new computer, he handed Albert an old one he was replacing. When he learned how Albert spent the off-season fishing offshore in his rickety old wooden boat-boy skiff, which had definitely seen better days, Hank, a former offshore fisherman himself, decided he needed to help Albert get a better ride.

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NOAH CULLEN: Young Sailor's Body Found Aboard Sunken Sailboat

Jubilee dive

A mystery that has tortured the sailing and diving community in the Upper Florida Keys for most of the past two months was resolved early this week when two technical divers descended about 300 feet and found human remains inside the sunken sailboat Jubilee, which had been missing since August 4. The remains are believed to be those of Noah Cullen, Jubilee's 24-year-old skipper, who was last seen alive sailing his boat singlehanded in the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary shortly before a strong thunderstorm swept through the area.

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