ABU DHABI, January 2 – Team Vestas Wind has announced bold plans to rebuild their badly damaged boat and return to the Volvo Ocean Race by June.
The Danish team’s Volvo Ocean 65 was dramatically grounded on a reef in the middle of the Indian Ocean midway through Leg 2 on November 29.
Their nine-strong crew miraculously avoided serious injury in the 19 knot (35kpm) collision but the boat suffered extensive damage, especially to the stern.
However, it was retrieved from the reef just before Christmas and is currently being assessed in Malaysia by experts. It will then be transported by Race partners Maersk Line to Italy and then taken to Persico in Bergamo for repairing.
Skipper Chris Nicholson (AUS) told a news conference on Friday that the condition of the boat had built confidence that it could yet be fixed and returned to competition before the 12th edition of offshore racing’s toughest event is completed in Gothenburg on June 27.
“We got the boat off the reef in better condition than we thought possible,” he said. “There are large portions of the deck that can be reused – 70 to 80 per cent – and a lot of other components within the structure. We’ll rebuild our boat just as we rebuild our hopes and dreams.”
The aim is to return the boat to the now six-strong fleet in Lisbon ready for the Leg 8 start on June 7.
It’s been a rollercoaster few weeks for Nicholson, who led his crew to safety through waters on a dark night of November 29-30 and Saturday’s third leg departure from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China promises to be another low point.
“It’s really going to hit hard tomorrow night, not necessarily on the start gun tomorrow when the boats start (1000 UTC) but tomorrow night. That’s when you always know you’re back in an ocean race – the first night,” he said.
“Until now we’ve been focused on how we can clean up everything on the reef, the best job that we can do getting the boat back and then ultimately relying and trusting on Vestas and Powerhouse to hopefully allow us to get us back in the race.
“Now that that’s done, hopefully mentally we can be in a different phase now to rebuild everything that we’ve hoped for.”
Team Vestas Wind CEO Morten Albæk has told his skipper that the ultimate plan will be not just to return for the eighth leg start from Lisbon to Lorient but give the six other boats in the fleet a run for their money after that.
“That,” he said, “will be real success.”