Team Vestas Wind’s nine ship-wrecked men finally made it back to civilisation today, telling of their amazing escape from a collision with an Indian Ocean reef which grounded their boat.
The unshaven, exhausted, uninjured team were holed up, incommunicado, for three days in the remote archipelago after their boat ran into the reef on Saturday afternoon at 1510 UTC.
“I’m really disappointed of course,” said Chris Nicholson, their 45-year-old skipper from Australia, shortly after arriving at dockside in Mauritius.
“On the other hand, we have to realise how fortunate we are for everyone to be here in one piece, and to be healthy. It’s pretty amazing, so there’s a lot of emotions at the moment.”
“The past four days have been very challenging for all of us, and I am extremely proud of the whole crew’s professionalism, composure, and endurance.
“It’s clear that human error is responsible for the shipwreck, there’s no avoiding that. And as skipper, I take ultimate responsibility.”
They had smashed into the coral rock at 19 knots – the equivalent of 35 kilometres an hour – in their 65-foot boat, spun 180 degrees and crashed to a halt, grounded on the reef.
They remained on the reef until the small hours of the following morning, before abandoning the boat in pitch darkness and wading in knee-deep water to a dry position on the reef, led by Nicholson – aka Nico.
A small boat from the local coastguard then took them early on Sunday to a small islet, Íle du Sud, which is known as a favourite with shark-watching holiday-makers.
Their blue vessel, caught underneath breaking waves, is badly damaged, but the crew decided to remain for an extra 24 hours to complete a clean-up operation around the area.
“The bad things had to come off,” said the skipper, having just stepped off the local fishing boat, ‘The Eliza’, that transported his crew back to the mainland.
“We had a clear list of removing that equipment, and once we had all those off the boat it came down to removing things that were expensive.
“We’ve done a really good job in clearing it all up.”
Experienced New Zealander sailor Rob Salthouse was also keen to focus on the positives.
“It’s just good to be back on dry land,” he said.
“I think the team has grown strong with what we’ve been through.”
Danish sailor Peter Wibroe, white shirt stained yellow by sand, sweat and sea salt, was full of admiration for his leader.
“I must say that the team worked really well together, especially Nico, the skipper, who led the whole situation in a very professional way.
He continues. “We all felt extremely safe despite the situation.
“We were conscious about what was going on and we all had our responsibilities.”
“We worked really well as a team, and that’s why we’re all here today.”