The two yachts lined up during a lull in the storm which brought a disastrous end to both teams' leg seven transatlantic trip, with movistar leaving their mortally wounded boat during comparatively light, 13 knot breezes and escaping to safety.
Yet beyond the disappointment of losing a yacht which, for all its recurring problems, had led them to third on the leaderboard, BEKKING was more moved by the act of seamanship from a crew still carrying the body of a recently lost crewmate.
BEKKING said, 'Special thanks to the ABN TWO guys. They were in a very tough situation and they did a fantastic job to get us safely here.'
The crew was, however, bitterly disappointed that a boat with half a year's worth of preparation under its belt - and holds the unique distinction of having beaten ABN AMRO ONE in an offshore leg - could end its challenge in such a way. Furthermore, the two leg-ending breakdowns, until this terminal collapse of the keel structure, had made the crew grow weary.
BEKKING, who not surprisingly confirmed, 'This is the end [of the race] for us,' said, 'I have been working on this project for three years. All the other guys have been working on it for two years as well and it's really hard to make it successful. We've had a lot of down sides, but we've always come back. But the moment we stepped off movistar I realized that this was not something we could come back from. This was the end of the race. So it sinks in and I will think a lot more in the next couple of days, but it hit like a hammer.
'As everybody knows we have sailed half way round the world before even the race started, but we never had any serious problems. Only blowing out a pad eye or something like that. We were 100 percent confident in the boat and in the first leg we had some structural issues and we had to retire from leg one. Then on the second leg we had some ram issues; then everyone knows we had quite a nice leg into Wellington where we actually had a win and in general we were going very fast, and I think that the boat was very competitive, but we didn't score a lot of points basically because of all the retirements.
'The current situation, even with all the retirements and the problems we have had, we are still in third place. So we can look at ourselves and look the guys in the eyes and think that we have achieved quite a lot.
'Coming back to the damage, we knew as well that we had some issues just before Cape Horn where the boat nearly sank, and that is one of the things that comes back in our minds when on Saturday we had the problems with the keel again. What do you do at that stage? What do we do when it gets really bad and the pumps can't keep up anymore?'
A day earlier Chris NICHOLSON (AUS), who famously prevented the boat from sinking with his innovative underwater electrics during leg four, had said, 'This project had huge potential. We had a boat capable of beating ABN AMRO ONE offshore and no one else has been able to say that.
'But after all the breakdowns we have had I have to be honest, you never really had a chance to be confident in the boat. I'm sorry to see the boat go, but mostly because it means our race is over. We were doing well; we would have finished on the podium.'
Upon manning the life raft and then boarding ABN AMRO TWO BEKKING promptly thanked their skipper Sebastien JOSSE (FRA).
'First of all we were all feeling quite relieved and I can speak for myself saying that when I jumped into the life raft, I knew that was really it, and that was the moment we were really leaving the ship and I felt really happy I made that decision at that stage. So when I got on to ABN TWO, my first thing was to go over to Sebastien and all the guys individually and thank them, as we understood as a group it was very hard for them to come back for us in the situation that they were in and we were very grateful to see our old mates back - even though they are younger than us.'
On board the white boat, Stuart BANNATYNE (NZL) explained, it was a surreal experience. 'Basically, when we boarded ABN AMRO TWO, Sebastien made it pretty clear to us that they wanted to carry on sailing the boat and we could help out a little bit by making them coffee and the occasional meal, but they wanted to keep their watch system going and sail the boat and obviously I respected that.
'I know a few of our guys spent some time on deck enjoying sailing with these guys, doing a bit of grinding now and again and helping out, but basically those guys sailed their own boat and carried on their own watch system, and we had a little watch system within ourselves to share out our sleeping bags and quarters below.'
While Mike JOUBERT (RSA), who publicly announced his lack of confidence in his yacht after their last breakdown just off Cape Horn, added, 'It was a unique opportunity for all of us to be able to sail a completely different concept boat [ABN AMRO TWO]. It's always an interesting learning experience from different people especially when we have been together as long as we have. We haven't really sailed with anyone else and it was a great learning experience for us, looking at their sail set up and how they sail the boat. It was a big eye opener personally.'
There are now plans to fly to the area the yacht was abandoned and make arrangements for a possible retrieval in the next few days; however, BEKKING was not optimistic the boat would be in one piece.
'Right now we actually don't have a position on the boat,' he said. 'The last position was more than a day ago and we had a beacon, but that disappeared at ten o'clock on Sunday night so that's very bad news. The weather conditions improved today so much that we are able to send out a plane so we can get a visual sight on the area where the last position was known. There's an aeroplane right now on the way. The skies are relatively clear and the seas have slowed down a little bit and there is now six to seven metres of swell over there. So the boat will be pretty hard to spot, but this is the first thing we are doing. A search and rescue vessel is on standby so as soon as the boat is spotted, that boat will take off and try to salvage her.
'I hope the boat is still upright. I really have my doubts about it because of the damage and the amount of water which was coming in at such a rate and that was in quite fair conditions. Yet when the whole thing started it was 25 knots, and when ABN AMRO TWO picked us up it was ten to 15 knots. But the seas were getting higher and higher, and especially with the forecast and we know there have been ten metre waves and 50 knots plus wind. So I have serious doubts the boat will be still be afloat. If not I think the keel may have fallen off and the boat flipped upside down.'
Despite the frustrations of seeing his chance of glory in his fifth race crippled by the failures of canting keel technology, BEKKING gave his full support to the safety measures of the race before giving his backing to the Volvo Open 70 class.
'I personally hope that we can keep sailing on these boats in future Volvo Ocean Races,' said BEKKING, who also revealed he would love to do a sixth race. 'I think all the sailors - at least myself - love these boats. They are fantastic to sail. One of the reasons we always come back to this type of sailing is because we love the ocean, but as well we like fast sailing and we like the company of all the guys so I personally hope we will stay with the Volvo Open 70.
'We know a lot of things have happened, but designers are not stupid and they are all thinking and a lot of people are communicating with each other to see what we can do to make the boats safer for the future. So, even if the race is in three years time we have enough development time and feedback from all the teams and I think that next time, we will have a second generation class and we won't have any problems anymore.'Overall Leaderboard
|1||ABN AMRO ONE||NED||Mike SANDERSON (NZL)||81|
|2||Pirates of the Caribbean||USA||Paul CAYARD (USA)||55|
|3||movistar||ESP||Bouwe BEKKING (NED)||48|
|4||Brasil 1||BRA||Torben GRAEL (BRA)||48|
|5||ABN AMRO TWO||NED||Sebastien JOSSE (FRA)||45|
|6||Ericsson Racing Team||SWE||Neal MCDONALD (GBR)||43.5|
|7||Brunel||AUS||Matthew HUMPHRIES (GBR)||7|
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