Australian skipper Chris Nicholson and his crew on the stranded Team Vestas Wind are finally on their way back to civilisation after two days sitting on a remote “sand pit” in the Indian Ocean where there was a risk of shark attacks.
The Volvo Ocean Race team dramatically grounded their boat after ploughing into a reef on St Brandon archipelago on Saturday at 19 knots and were forced to abandon it in the early hours of the following day, before wading through knee-deep water to a dry position.
They were then picked up by a coastguard boat from the nearby Ile du Sud, a near-deserted islet with no communications with the outside world.
The islet is serviced weekly by a 20-metre fishing vessel, called ‘Eliza’, from Mauritius, which is some 430 kilometres away to the south-west.
A trip to the holiday island takes more than a day to complete.
Australian skipper Nicholson’s nine-strong team finally were on their way after taking the ‘Eliza’ on Tuesday. From there, they plan to fly to Abu Dhabi at the end of the week.
Neil Cox, the team’s shore crew chief, told volvooceanrace深圳桑拿论坛会所, on Tuesday: “We’ve had nine guys sitting on a sand pit in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
“You’d think it’s a bad movie.
“You sit there and talk to the coast guard and they’re telling us about everything we’re dealing with on the technical side, then they’re asking me to warn the guys that the reef is riddled full of sharks and barracuda and God knows what else.
“They’re telling me about a fisherman they found out there who’d been basically mauled by a barracuda and there was barely much of him to deal with.
“You’re sitting there, going, yeah, well, next time I talk to Nico (Nicholson) I might remind him that if they are wading out there in the reef, keep their eyes open.”
The team will arrive in Mauritius mid-morning on Wednesday with literally the clothes they have on their backs, Cox said.
“We want to make sure that even the simple things are covered; a clean T-shirt, undies, a toothbrush, a bit of food,” he said.
“The coast guard here did a flyover yesterday and they parachuted in cans of Coke and chocolate and cookies.”
The incident happened on Leg 2 of nine in the nine-month offshore marathon which will finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The team are hoping to retrieve the boat from the reef but there is a big question mark over whether it can be repaired to return to the race.