Position at 2200GMT last night

Position at 2200GMT last night

Movistar abandoned

Disaster for Bouwe Bekking's team in Volvo Ocean Race

Sunday May 21st 2006, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
Bouwe Bekking (NED) informed race headquarters at Whiteley, Hampshire, yesterday at 1527 (GMT) that movistar was taking on water. The pumps are coping with the ingress of water and the crew has stabilised the problem. 

Their position at 2200GMT last night was 410 miles west south west of Land’s End and they wer sailing at 10 knots in 22 knots of wind, the sea state rough, with waves of six metres. ABN AMRO TWO altered course to standby with Brunel also on standby to assist if required.

At 0100GMT Bouwe Bekking wrote from on board:

Disaster has struck movistar once again. movistar was sailing in 25-28 knots of breeze, on an open angle, 120deg TWA. Seas were big, 5- 6 metres and therefore we sailed with three reefs and a number 4 jib. All of sudden a loud crack was heard and immediately we headed downwind.

First we checked the rams shelves but they were okay, then the keel pin, and here we saw water streaming in. So we dropped the main instantly and got the pumps out. Closer inspection showed us that the keel pin had moved 50mm in the structure sideways, and we could see the keel pin move up and down. We informed race headquarters, and asked for assistance of other competing boats.

It was pretty hard to ask the ABN 2 boys to come back, as they are having plenty on their plate. Brunel were willing to come too, but found out that they have some issues as well, so we agreed to make a decision later if we needed their assistance.

The water never rose as high as the Cape Horn incident, and we could keep it level immediately. In the mean time all the guys had put on their survival suits/lifejackets, just for worse case scenario. Carbon fibre doesn't give any warning when it will break.

We drilled a lot of holes in certain positions (under guidance from a structural engineer) in the structure and tightened ropes through there and then around the keel, to avoid the keel from further dropping, plus as well two halyards on strops around the keel pin.

So situation is stable, one pump is running all the time and the good news is that we have visual contact now with ABN2 who will escort us as long we need them. We are very grateful that they are there under the extreme circumstances they are in. Once we had visual with ABN2, I informed Brunel that they could continue towards England.

I have to say the coordination with race headquarters and the Falmouth coastguard has been excellent, and thank you Thrane & Thrane for the Comms equipment, it makes live decisions much easier in such a situation.

So just keeping our fingers crossed the boat will hold out, and that we can bring it into port safely. One thing for sure it was nice that it was daylight, that way you have a much better overview. And the guys?

They have been top, like always
Keep you posted,
Bouwe Bekking - skipper

In the early hours this morning movistar was being shadowed by ABN AMRO Two, both crews preparing to deal with the Force Ten gale forecast to be with them shortly.

This morning at 1000GMT we were informed that the crew of movistar had abandoned ship and transferred via life raft to ABN AMRO Two, which has been on station since 2200GMT last night, the two boats positioned 307 nautical miles WSW of Land’s End. 

The sea state is rough, but the wind has temporarily eased to seven knots, which has made the transfer of the crew easier. The weather is forecast to deteriorate and 40-50 knots winds are expected in the vicinity within the next four to six hours.  The decision to transfer the crew and abandon movistar was made in the light of the extreme weather expected.

When asked for assistance, the Royal Navy responded immediately and HMS Mersey, a River class offshore patrol vessel built for UK fishery protection, has left Milford Haven in South Wales and is expected to rendez-vous with ABN AMRO Two in approximately eight hours’ time and shepherd ABN AMRO Two to the nearest coast. 

Food and personal items were transferred with the crew of movistar and ABN AMRO Two is equipped with two ten-man life rafts if required.  Movistar has been left with her generator and Inmarsat Satcom C communications system running so that her position can be tracked as long as possible. 

Once on board movistar BOuwe Bekking wrote:

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 secon emergency pump. That made me realise time I 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 35-40 knots and peeking up to 50 , I just wasn’t sure the boat would hold out. The breeze dyed more to around 6 knots and now the boat was rocking hard, and the seas became more confused. The keel pin started moving more as well, so in the end took the tough decision. 10 lives at stake, with a similar number of familes, 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 10 lives. A boat is just a boat, you can replace it, but lives you can not. 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 slided 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 perfect and was done in a couple of minutes. Than four went of and 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 in the first attempt. I checked once more downstairs, had a final look and stepped  on deck.

In the meantime  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 ABN2, as Seb had requested.  That was it, boat abandoned, and our way to the ABN2. Had a short chat with Nitro, and hew as happy we got off, he could remember clearly Cape Horn in 50 knots, he couldn’t imagine doing a transfer in these conditions. Seb drove his boat precisely besides our raft, and we could throw the line, and made the transfer in a whisker. I thanked him and his crew, and told how tough this must have been for them as well, especially after what they have been through.
So know here 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


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