Published: Tuesday, 02 December 2014

Australian skipper, Chris Nicholson, spoke of his immense pride at the way his Team Vestas Wind crew, the Danish entry in the Volvo Ocean Race, came through the ordeal of being grounded on Nov 29 and being forced to abandon their boat in complete darkness on a remote Indian Ocean reef.

Nicholson, 45, made the decision to leave the stricken Volvo Ocean 65 early in the morning after it was beached on the reef of an archipelago of islands known as St Brandon, 430 kilometres north-east of Mauritius.

Team Vestas Wind Skipper Has Pride In His Shipwrecked Crew

(Photo: Amory Ross / Team Alvimedica)

The boat ran into the reef while going about 19 knots. Miraculously none of the nine on board suffered even minor injuries.

Nicholson was also amazed that the boat survived the impact without breaking up immediately.

His plan had been to keep the crew on board until daybreak, before being rescued, but he had practised a drill for abandoning the boat 15-20 times, “never with the intention of having to do it,” he says.

Team Vestas Wind Skipper Has Pride In His Shipwrecked Crew 1

(Photo: Brian Carlin / Team Vestas Wind)

However, the relentless pounding of the waves eventually left Nicholson with no option but to abandon ship, the most dreaded words a skipper can utter.

He and his crew waded across the reef in knee-deep water before finding a dry spot to wait for a coastguard RIB to take them to Íle du Sud and safety.

Team Vestas Wind Skipper Has Pride In His Shipwrecked Crew 2

(Photo: Brian Carlin / Team Vestas Wind)

“I always believed that we were a strong team,” says Nicholson. “We made a mistake, which led to what happened last night, but I’ve been blown away by the way the guys dealt with the situation, trying to make things as right as possible today. They make me so proud.”