Accident mars fourth leg of Volvo Ocean Race

The 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race is the longest in the competition's 44-year history

Hong Kong (AFP) – A collision between a fishing boat and the American-Danish team overshadowed the fourth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race Saturday, with nine people rescued and one taken to hospital.

Hong Kong team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag won the gruelling fourth stage closely followed by China’s Dongfeng as the former British territory hosted the race for the first time, but there were mixed emotions for crews amid reports of the accident.

The seven groups embarked on the 5,800 nautical mile leg early January, heading north from Melbourne up the east coast of Australia with the navigational challenge of dodging numerous islands.

Scallywag, skippered by Australian David Witt, led the flotilla into their home port shortly after local time 0145 am local time (1745 GMT Friday), crossing the line in 17 days, 14 hours, 30 minutes and 42 seconds, in a historic victory.

Charles Caudrelier’s China-backed Dongfeng Race Team arrived just hours later to claim second place, with the French skipper noting it was great news for Asian sailing. 

But the finish was bittersweet for the Dongfeng crew as news rolled in that the American-Danish team Vestas 11th Hour Racing collided with a fishing boat.

Dongfeng’s website said the accident happened as the Vestas was around 30 miles from the finish in second place and being chased by Dongfeng.

“Our first thought is that this is terrible news. We are of course very sad to hear it and very concerned about the fishing boat and await further news on that,” Caudrelier was quoted as saying.

“It is always very dangerous when sailing in these fishing areas when there are so many boats and some have no lights.”

Hong Kong Marine Rescue Coordination Centre (HKMRCC) was able to rescue nine of the other crew while one person was taken by helicopter to hospital, an update on the race website said.

It reported all Vestas crew members as safe but said the boat suffered damage and the team had officially retired from the fourth leg.

Dutch group Team AkzoNobel came in third place, docking at the Hong Kong Race Village around 08:20 am local time, while Spain’s MAPFRE finished fourth.

The 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race is the longest in the competition’s 44-year history, stretching over eight months and 45,000 nautical miles around the globe ending in The Hague in the Netherlands in late June.