Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS) was restored to the Volvo Ocean Race fleet on Wednesday, nearly six months to the day when the boat ran aground, setting off a story of team-work, determination and sheer hard work to return the crew to the start line in Lisbon.
Many experienced observers of the 41-year-old race had feared there was no way back for the Danish team in the race’s 12th edition when the Vestas Wind ran aground on the Cargados Carajos shoals in the Indian Ocean during Leg 2 on November 29.
The collision caused heartbreaking, extensive damage to the beautiful blue boat.
But the doubters would have underestimated the combined efforts of an expert team assembled by Vestas and race organisers, who have managed to rebuild the shattered Volvo Ocean 65 boat to the strict one-design demands of the race in four months – half the time it would normally take to build the boat.
The bulk of the work has been carried out by the Persico Marine boatyard in Bergamo, Italy.
On Saturday, May 22, the boat left the Persico yard and embarked on a land and sea journey to Lisbon, with the help of Maersk Line and GAC, where she arrived in the small hours of Wednesday morning, ahead of schedule.
In the final stages of her journey before arriving in the Portuguese capital, the boat was transported just over 50 kilometres by road, crossing the Vasco de Gama Bridge (the largest bridge in Europe) across the Tagus River.
Final preparations, including the reassembly of the keel and rig, are now underway. The team is preparing to return to the water for the first time on Saturday ahead of the long weekend of racing (June 4-7), which includes the Lisbon In-Port Race on June 6 and Leg 8 departure for Lorient, France, the following day.
“We’ve been waiting for this day to arrive for some time. It’s a testament to all involved in the rebuild to have the boat and team almost back in race mode,” said Team Vestas Wind’s Australian skipper, Chris Nicholson.
“It’s a true story of coming together to make things work, and we’re all motivated and in good shape to get back out on the water and finish what we started. These extra days’ preparations will help us become as competitive as we can be for the in-port and final legs of the Race.”
Commercial Director of Team Vestas Wind and Vice President of Global Marketing at Vestas, Mirella Vitale, added: “It’s a great achievement for Vestas and Team Vestas Wind to be where we are today.
“We’ve lived a different race than we originally envisioned, but we knew that our story could not end on that reef. We thank our fellow teams for their generosity and sportsmanship by providing seats for our guests on their boats while our boat was being repaired.“
Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, applauded all the combined efforts that have ensured Team Vestas Wind are back in business for the final legs to Lorient and then to Gothenburg, via a pit-stop in The Hague.
“It has been an incredible display of teamwork to return Vestas Wind to the start-line despite all the many obstacles along the way,” he said.
“Seeing Chris and the guys on the start-line for Leg 8 will be one of most memorable and proudest moments I have experienced in seven years as Race CEO,” he said.
Patrick Lammers, member of the retail board RWE, parent company of sub sponsor Powerhouse, added: “In order to be able to appear at the start in Lisbon, everyone involved has given their utmost.
“This was the ultimate race in a race, where no one thought of giving up. As a sponsor, Powerhouse could not have wished for a better team and partners. With this success, they truly carried out what we stand for.”