At sea. Volvo Ocean Race: Bouwe Bekking describes movistar evacuation Print E-mail
Sunday, 21 May 2006
Bouwe Bekking – skipper:

The hardest decision I ever taken in my life, was the call to abandon ship. This morning we gybed over 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 2nd 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 35-40 knots and peeking up to 50, I just wasn’t sure the boat would hold out. The breeze died 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 families, the right call.

Seb (Sebastien Josse – skipper of ABN AMRO TWO) 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 cannot.

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

Once the call was made, I spoke with Seb on the VHF and went through procedures. We decided to use one life raft, and move over safety gear/food/media equipment etc, etc. We slid the raft off the transom, and one person jumped in and collected all the gear. Then 4 people followed and we slipped them off. The transfer went perfectly and was done in a couple of minutes. Then four went off and were pushed off again with Mikey Joubert 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 mean time the 4 others had slipped the 2nd life raft in the water, but didn’t inflate it, as we wanted to keep it in one piece, so we had a 3rd life raft on ABN2, as Seb had requested. That was it. The boat was abandoned, and we were on our way to the ABN2. Had a short chat with Nitro (Noel Drennan), and how happy he was that we had 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 said how tough this must have been for them as well, especially after what they have been through.

So now here we are, onboard and on our way to England. Spoke with Seb and wants us to make ourselves at home. He would like to remain racing in the spirit of the rule, sailing with his own boys. Fair enough.

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

Sent: 21 May 2006 12:04
Last Updated ( Sunday, 21 May 2006 )
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