ABU DHABI, Reuters - The Volvo Ocean Race crew who crashed into a reef in the Indian Ocean and spent two days stranded on an island surrounded by sharks, have flown to Abu Dhabi.
The nine sailors of Danish-backed boat Team Vestas Wind were being debriefed by race officials and given any psychological support necessary.
“The priority remains the crew, and the sponsors and the race are concentrating now on ensuring their well-being is continued to be taken care of,” a Volvo Ocean Race spokesman said on Saturday.
The boat remains on the reef in St Brandon and the team and race officials are assessing how it can be retrieved.
“It looks doubtful that it can be repaired to join the race at a later stage but the team and its sponsors are determined to remain a part of the event in one shape or form,” the spokesman said. The crew were rescued from the island of Ile du Sud on Wednesday and spent two days in Mauritius. Ile du Sud is surrounded by sharks and barracuda, according to the local coastguard on the archipelago of St. Brandon.
The team issued a statement from Australian skipper Chris Nicholson saying that human error, rather than any technical fault, was to blame for the collision in which the 4.5 million euro ($5.53 million) boat hit the reef at 19 knots (35 kilometers an hour).
“The miracle is that nobody was badly injured or even killed. Instead, they escaped with no more than minor scratches and bruises,” the spokesman added.
The incident last Saturday took place around the midway point of the second leg between Cape Town and Abu Dhabi of the nine-month global race which started in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 4 and is scheduled to finish in Gothenburg, Sweden, on June 27.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Britain’s twice Olympic silver medalist Ian Walker, won the opening stage and is leading on leg two with just over 1,500 nautical miles to go.
The six remaining boats in the fleet are expected to arrive in the Emirates next Saturday. Latest placings:
1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, 2. Dongfeng Race Team (China), 3. Team Brunel (Netherlands), 4. Team Alvimedica (Turkey/U.S.), 5. MAPFRE (Spain), 6. Team SCA (Sweden).
Editing by Ed Osmond