Fisherman dead in Volvo Ocean Race collision near Hong Kong
SAN DIEGO (AP) — A yacht in the around-the-world Volvo Ocean Race collided in the dark with a fishing boat near Hong Kong, leaving one fisherman dead while nine others were rescued.
The yacht, Vestas 11th Hour Racing, was about 30 nautical miles from the finish line of Leg 4 of the bluewater classic.
None of the crewmembers with the American-Danish team was injured in the collision early Saturday local time, race officials said. The 65-foot sloop, which had a hole in the port side of the hull near the bow, retired from the leg and reached port on its own power.
Vestas 11th Hour Racing reported the collision minutes before Hong Kong-based Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag sailed into its home port ahead of the fleet to win the leg.
According to a statement from race organizers, Vestas 11th Hour Racing issued a distress call on behalf of the fishing vessel, alerting the Hong Kong Marine Rescue Coordination Centre, and began a search and rescue mission.
A Hong Kong police spokeswoman who declined to give her name told The Associated Press that “a mainland fishing boat crashed into a sailing boat” and all 10 fishermen were thrown into the water. The South China Morning Post reported that the fishing boat sank.
The Government Flying Office said in a statement that one fisherman was unconscious when pulled from the water by the Vestas crew. The Hong Kong Marine Rescue Coordination Centre said that fisherman was airlifted to a hospital and was the one who died. The nine other fishermen were rescued by a commercial vessel.
Race Control asked team AkzoNobel to divert to the scene. Not long after, AkzoNobel resumed racing.
No other details about the collision were immediately available.
The first confirmation that Vestas had collided with a fishing boat came from Charles Caudrelier, skipper of Dongfeng Race Team, which was second into Hong Kong on the leg from Melbourne, Australia.
“Our first thought is that this is terrible news,” Caudrelier said shortly after his crew arrived in Hong Kong. “We are of course very sad to hear it and very concerned about the fishing boat. It is always very dangerous when sailing in these fishing areas when there are so many boats and some have no lights. Obviously this is very bad news for these fishermen, the Volvo Ocean Race and for Vestas.”
Before the collision, Vestas 11th Hour Racing was in position to finish second in the leg. The retirement dropped it to seventh.
Vestas 11th Hour Racing skipper Charlie Enright missed Leg 4 because of a family medical situation. Mark Towill skippered the team in Enright’s absence.
Associated Press Business Writer Kelvin K. Chan in Hong Kong contributed to this report.