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21 May 2006, 05:03 pm
Movistar Abandons Ship
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Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006
New York, USA

Following a night of fighting their keel problems after the aft end of their keel pivot bearing broke away from the hull, Bouwe Bekking and his crew have abandoned their vessel and have safely transferred to ABN AMRO TWO which has been standing by since approximately 2200GMT last night.
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The crew used the liferaft to transfer safely between the two yachts. BEKKING ((NED), and his crew, Andrew CAPE (AUS), Chris NICHOLSON (AUS), Jonathan SWAIN (USA), Mike JOUBERT (RSA), Noel DRENNAN (IRL), Pepe RIBES (ESP), Peter DORIEAN (AUS), Stuart BANNATYNE (NZL) and Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP) are now all safely aboard ABN AMRO TWO and are heading for land.

The transfer was completed in the eye of the low pressure system that is passing over, when winds dropped to seven knots. The forecast is for winds of up to 50 knots to come in from the west imminently, which hastened the decision to abandon movistar.

Throughout the night the crew of movistar had worked to stabilise their Volvo Open 70 by securing the 4,500 kg canting with ropes, and had achieved some degree of success. They had managed to keep the water ingress under control and even apply some cant to enable the boat to make progress towards Lands End. At the time the crew transferred to ABN AMRO TWO, they were 307 miles west south west of the south western extremity of England.

Food and personal items were transferred with the crew. movistar has been left with her generator running and her Sat C communications system operational so that she can be tracked for as long as possible.

Outside assistance was on its way to the two yachts, the Royal Navy having immediately responded to a request for help by sending the Fisheries Patrol vessel HMS Mersey, a River Class Offshore Patrol vessel from Milford Haven in Wales. HMS Mersey is heading for a rendezvous with ABN AMRO TWO with all possible speed, should be with them in about eight hours and will shepherd then to the nearest coast.

Report from Bouwe

Once he was safely aboard ABN AMRO TWO and heading for dry land, Bouwe Bekking took the time to send a full report of movistar's troubles and the subsequent abandoning of his command, "The hardest decision I ever taken in my life was the call to abandon ship.

"This morning we gybed over on the other board to check how the keel would cope with that angle. Straight away we saw that the water intake nearly doubled and had to start the second emergency pump. That made me realise that we were actually in way bigger trouble.

"We had survived for nearly 24 hours, but in light winds and the seas had calmed down, but with a forecast of 35 to 40 knots and peaking up to 50, I just wasn't sure the boat would hold out.

"The breeze died to around six knots and now the boat was rocking hard as the seas became more confused. The keel pin started moving more as well, so in the end I took the tough decision. Ten lives at stake, with a similar number of families, the right call.

"Seb and his crew have been fantastic over the last 24 hours. We all realised that turning around had been a very hard call for them, and hopefully they can find a little comfort that they have saved ten lives. A boat is just a boat, you can replace it, but lives you cannot.

"Saying thank you is not big enough right now, it is more than that. I am sure we get even a better friendship with them all.

"Once the call was made, I spoke with Seb on the VHF and went through procedures.

"We decided to us one liferaft, and move over safety gear/food/media equipment etc, etc. We slid the raft of the transom, and one person jumped in and collected all the gear. Then four persons followed and we slipped them off.

"The transfer went perfectly and was done in a couple of minutes. The four went aboard ABN AMRO TWO and the raft was pushed off again with Mikey still in it. This was planned, so we could motor over, and throw him a line, which went OK at the first attempt. I checked once more downstairs, had a final look and stepped on deck.

"In the mean time the four others had slipped the second liferaft in the water, but didn't inflate it, as we wanted to keep it in one piece, so we had a third liferaft on ABN AMRO TWO, as Seb had requested.

"That was it, boat abandoned, and our way across. Had a short chat with Nitro, and he was happy we got off, he could remember clearly Cape Horn in 50 knots, he couldn't imagine doing a transfer in those conditions.

"Seb drove his boat precisely beside our raft, and we could throw the line and make the transfer in a whisker. I thanked him and his crew, and said how tough this must have been for them as well, especially after what they have been through.

"So now here we are on board, on our way to England. Spoke with Seb, what he wanted us to do, feel like home. He would like to remain to race in the spirit of the rule, sailing with his own boys. Fair enough.

"There is no mirror onboard here, but I could face myself, we have done everything possible.

"Bouwe BEKKING"

Interview with Glenn BOURKE

Once the immediate safety of the movistar crew had been assured, Amanda BLACKLEY talked to Glenn BOURKE about the situation as it transpired, the future of movistar the boat and the ramifications for the Volvo Ocean Race, "I think it's been an incredibly difficult period for all of those boats: Brunel and in fact everybody in the fleet has had a really tough time on this Atlantic crossing. The weather has been absolutely atrocious.

'But what I can say is that ABN AMRO TWO in every single case has acted incredibly professionally. They've done exactly the right thing at the right time and Bouwe Bekking in similar cases, made good decisions. I've been speaking to him now for over 24 hours, probably even longer than that, and he's remained rational the whole way through, he's come up with good ideas, he's kept the boat afloat, he's kept his crew safe. And then ultimately he made absolutely the correct decision to get off and to get his ten crew members safely to boat.

So ABN TWO will be accompanied into land by a navy vessel?

"That's our understanding at the moment. HMS Mersey will escort ABN AMRO TWO all the way into land until they are comfortable and happy, and that will probably take something in the order of 15 to 20 hours before they reach the Lizard and its our understanding that they will stand by and watch over the guys.

"If the sea state became flat enough and they could deploy a RIB they might choose to take some of the crew members off ABN AMRO TWO and onto Mersey, but we are not sure about that right now.

What is the future of movistar?

"Well there are only a couple of things that can happy to movistar really.

"She has drogues out the back so she'll be running stern to the wind, and as the wind increases and the storm comes through the motion of the sea will become quite violent. What that could do is it could actually break the fin away from the hull and if that happens the boat will quickly capsize and fairly quickly after turn upside down.

"But the good thing about these boats is they have six collision bulkheads, and so they have enormous air reservoirs inside them. If the keel was to fall off the boat would stay afloat, upside down for a very long time.

"The other alternative is that the keel doesn't dislodge: that the rope and the webbing and whatever the boys did to secure the keel inside the boat is sufficient, and that the storm passes through, that the boat stays afloat, and basically hangs on. A salvage vessel can come pick it up and slowly tow it back to port where it can be fixed.

Glenn, what are your thoughts on how these incidents impact the Volvo Ocean Race?

"Well every incident like this impacts the Volvo Ocean Race. We have to learn from it. The sailors come in and give us their thoughts on what went well, what didn't go well. It's a learning experience for absolutely everyone and we will all be touched and altered by all the sequence of events that have happened out here. I don't think any of us will ever be the same.

"And yet we have to press on. We have an event, we have racing sail boats out there. We have a winner of the race in fact, in ABN AMRO ONE coming into Portsmouth. And we have to continue to learn and improve and modify, and create a great finish for the race."

Overall Leaderboard
(Up to and including Leg Six)

Pos Team Nation Skipper Pts
1 ABN AMRO ONE NED Mike SANDERSON (NZL) 70.5
2 Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) 47.5
3 movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) 47
4= ABN AMRO TWO NED Sebastien JOSSE (FRA) 42
4= Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) 42
6 Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) 34.5
7 Brunel AUS Matthew HUMPHRIES (GBR) 2.5

For a complete list of all the news about the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006 CLICK HERE.

Event Media (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Movistar:© David Brannigan
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