2018-01-25 / News

U.S. boat in Volvo race involved in deadly crash


Vestas 11th Hour Racing docked in Hong Kong with a hole on the port side of its hull near the bow. The 65-foot American boat suffered the damage Friday after colliding with a Chinese fishing vessel, which resulted in one death. Vestas 11th Hour Racing docked in Hong Kong with a hole on the port side of its hull near the bow. The 65-foot American boat suffered the damage Friday after colliding with a Chinese fishing vessel, which resulted in one death. Tragedy struck the Volvo Ocean Race Friday after the American boat fatally collided with a fishing vessel about 30 miles offshore from Hong Kong, resulting in the death of a Chinese fisherman.

The collision occurred at 1:20 a.m. local time in the busy South China Sea during the fourth leg of the global circumnavigation.

According to race director Phil Lawrence, Vestas 11th Hour Racing was battling for second place with Dongfeng Race Team when it collided with a fishing boat, knocking all 10 fishermen overboard. Nine crew members were rescued by a nearby commercial vessel but a 10th man was airlifted to a Hong Kong hospital. He later died there.

“We know a man lost his life, tragically, after an incident with one of our race boats,” Lawrence said. “We offer our deepest condolences to his loved ones and family.”

The length of the fishing boat, which was “damaged significantly” and sank, has not been released. No Volvo sailors were injured, although the team did retire from the fourth leg. Their regular skipper, Bristol native Charlie Enright, was not onboard during this leg because of a family medical emergency. At the helm was Mark Towill, a native of Hawaii who was an All-American with Enright on the Brown University sailing team.

The Vestas boat suffered damage on the port side of its hull near the bow. However, after participating in the rescue, the team was able to return to port under its own power. At no time did Vestas 11th Hour Racing request assistance for themselves, Lawrence said.

“As you would imagine, they are very shaken and deeply saddened by the incident,” he said about the American team.

The fourth leg to Hong Kong was a 5,600-mile leg that began Jan. 2 from Melbourne, Australia. While race officials are not saying if the accident will affect the next leg, the schedule has the fleet set to arrive on Feb. 1 in Guangzhou, China, following a short non-scoring transitional leg. The boats are scheduled to leave China for New Zealand six days later.

Hong Kong is one of the world’s busiest ports, ranked in the top 10 annually since 2006 with an estimated 350,000 vessels traversing the waterways each year, according to the International Association of Ports and Harbors. There are nearly 19,000 Hong Kong-licensed vessels. The first confirmation of the collision came from Charles Caudrelier, skipper of Dongfeng Race Team, who posted on Facebook about the busy port.

“It is always very dangerous when sailing in these fishing areas when there are so many boats and some have no lights,” he said. “Obviously, this is very bad news for these fishermen, the Volvo Ocean Race and for Vestas.”

Along with Towill, there were two other Americans, both Rhode Islanders, on the Vestas boat during the collision. Nick Dana and Amory Ross are both Volvo Ocean Race veterans.

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