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Posts Tagged ‘chris nicholson’

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Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 2.16.17 PMAs Wouter Verbraak’s book tour gets underway, Danish newpaper Jyllands-Posten took the opportunity to stir up some controversy about Chris Nicholson’s escaping the TVW grounding without consequence.  We’ve already said our piece about it, but it’s worth having a look at what locals are saying in the title sponsor’s home town; especially about the yacht’s port of registration (Cayman Islands).  Huge thanks to SA’er ‘peterdane’ for the full translation; get into the forum to be part of the debate.

Wouter Verbraak had never before been trapped. Properly trapped. He had never experienced being in a situation he could not envisage a way out of. Not until now.

Wouter is together with eight others on board the yacht Vestas Wind, one of seven yachts competing in what is billed as sailings Formula 1, the Volvo Ocean Race. But Vestas is no longer a racing yacht of carbon and sails. It is more like a timber raft after it has rammed into a reef in the Indian Ocean at 30-35km/h.  Both rudders have broken away, but the boat is not stuck on the reef, it is with the help of the wind and waves being thrown further onto the reef which it has hit 5-10 minutes earlier. Again and again. The impact is huge and it is difficult for Chris Nicholson and his crew to hold on.

The crew tries, but does not succeed to get the boat off the reef. Big waves washes over the boats bow and side, Wouter Verbraak thinks they must be three to four metres high. And as Wouter later says to Sailing Anarchy, “Everything on that reef is there to destroy you”.

The time is just after 19:00 on 29th November 2014. The sun has set and that makes it harder to handle the situation. The nine men cannot get off the boat, the waves are too wild, the surroundings too uncertain.
They call Mayday over the VHF, the local coast guard answers, as does a local fishing vessel. But this is the Indian Ocean. 300kms north of Mauritius, more than 400 kms east of Madagascar.  The fishing vessel says it can only get to them at dawn.

Skipper Chris Nicholson gets hold of Volvo Ocean Race, Race Control. “We are on a reef, we cant get off. We are fucked” says the Australian.
The crew survived on what appears to be a Danish boat in the world’s toughest and biggest race, the Volvo Ocean Race. It was “noteworthy” that no one died, according to the 80-page independent report, which was made after the grounding. The report was commissioned by the Volvo Ocean Race and written by the Australian Admiral Chris Oxenbould, the American navigator Stan Honey and the American sailor and lecturer on maritime safety Chuck Hawley. We shall call it the “Volvo Report”.

Jyllands-Posten has looked at the causes of one of the most dramatic events in Danish yachting history after having gotten wind of that skipper Chris Nicholson should have broken Danish Navigation Code and face a fine or 1-2 years in prison. The picture turned out to be more nuanced than that. Nicholson has not broken Danish law, but three experts criticise him, Volvo and Vestas in several areas.  Amongst others for violating the international maritime rules and Vestas’ own Code of Conduct.
Navigator and meteorologist Wouter Verbraak has admitted that he made a big mistake before the grounding. He was, according to three new critics of Vestas, Volvo Ocean Race and skipper Chris Nicholson mistakenly made into the only scapegoat.

“Absolute responsibility “
Unlike the Dutch navigator Wouter Verbraak, it was the Australian captain, Chris Nicholson, who was awake when Vestas Wind hit the reef. He had the watch, and a on boat the captain decides. Nicholson knew this well.
“He was fully aware of its absolute responsibility as the person in charge of the safety of the boat and the people on board,” says the “Volvo Report”.

Yet Verbraak and not Nicholson got fired. By Nicholson. Not by the Australian skipper’s employer Vestas who instead handed the decisions about the consequences for the crew to no other than Nicholson.

“It compares to sailing from Elsinore with a new navigator and sail into Anholt. It cannot be the sleeping navigators error. The responsibility lies with the person who takes over the watch and takes responsibility, “says Philipp Shank-Holm who is one of three critics.  He is an experienced sailor and trained navigator, who has over the last 40 years sailed more than 100.000 nautical miles on the worlds oceans. He has participated in four Admirals Cup’s, used to be deemed as the World Championships of ocean racing. He is one of four people who criticise Vestas, Volvo and Chris Nicholson in this matter. The other three are Campbell Field, Peter Ingham and Fritz Ganzhorn.

Field is from New Zealand and has participated in three Volvo Ocean Races and was navigator in two of them. He was also technical manager for a team in a fourth Volvo  and is a professional navigator. Peter Ingham is a naval engineer and qualified yacht master to the highest level in Denmark, Ganzhorn is director of Sjøfartens Ledere (Seafearers managers), a union for employees in the naval industry. The three has looked carefully into the grounding of Vestas Wind.

In June 2014, Vestas gets an offer they cannot refuse. Volvo Ocean Race has an opening in their race and they offer it to Vestas.  “It is by far the largest sponsorship we have ever partaken in… we do it after careful consideration and we know exactly what we want from it” explains Morten Albæk the then communications and marketing director for Vestas. He is telling us about the first Danish only sponsored boat in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Many things about the boat is Danish. The sponsor is Vestas, the crew are all members of the Royal Danish Yacht Club. The boat belongs in Tuborg Havn, and Vestas Wind carries a Danish marine flag during training. The boat is 22 metres long and carries a crew of 9.   According to Danish Maritime law, any leisure vessel over 15 metres, but below 24 metres, that sail outside Scandinavia and the British Isles, has to have a skipper with the highest Yacht Master qualifications in Denmark, or equivalent. The so called Yacht skipper 1 exam. Chris Nicholson is the skipper of Vestas Wind, but he has no such qualification.

One would therefore think that the “law regarding the ships crew” that includes all Danish vessels apart from combatting ships and crew carrying vessels had been broken. The responsible would be the skipper, Nicholson and the owner, in this case Vestas, according to the Maritime Agency. If the law was broken, those responsible would face imprisonment for one year and as well as fines. The punishment could increase to two years if the breach was intentional and with gross negligence, and if an economic gain was gained or intended, hereunder also a saving.

Cayman Islands
But all this changes though by the fact that Vestas Wind does not have to abide by Danish legislation. It is owned by VFS Commercial Services in Spain, who have registered Vestas Wind in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean. The Cayman Islands are a part of the Commonwealth and boats here sail under the legislation of both the islands and British’ legislation.

The requirements for qualifications of a skipper is much more lenient in the Cayman Islands than in Denmark.  According to the authorities on the island, Cayman Maritime, the owner of Vestas Wind, VFS Commercial Services just have to ensure that the yacht is appropriately crewed.

The registration in the Cayman Island is criticised by Fritz Ganzhorn from Sjøfartens Leders. He gives a comparison: “If you board the DFDS boat to Oslo, you have faith that it is in fact a Danish ship. We can see the Danish flag, it has Danish crew and we have an expectation that Danish rules are being followed. It would create an uproar should we find out that the boat to Oslo was in fact a Cayman Island boat and therefore could adhere to a lower standard of qualification of the crew”
The challenge to get to the start of the race is enormous for Vestas Wind. Never before has a boat had such a short preparation time for an around the world yacht race. The minimum requirement is that each boat has to sail 3700nm non stop on the ocean before the start of the race, and be in Alicante, Spain, by 9AM on 8th September 2014. Vestas Wind can just manage a continuous week at sea before they arrive in Alicante just hours before the deadline. As a comparison, Brunel has sailed 30.000 nm and Team SCA has more than ten months longer preparation time than Team Vestas, and several boats sail across the Atlantic and back. This short preparation time is in the Volvo Report named as one of the causes behind the grounding of Vestas Wind. “We did not have much time with Vestas, so we did not manage to do all the preparations” said Wouter Verbraak when he held a talk on amongst other things, the grounding, in Denmark on May 5th.
Volvo Ocean Race’s Managing Director Knut Frostad says regarding the registration in the Cayman Islands: “It is one of the best places to register larger sailing yachts. They don’t have as much bureaucracy and it is a fast registration with low fees. Cayman Islands have also got a good legal structure, which is important to the owner to safeguard their values” explains Frostad, and he denies that the registration has anything to do with avoiding the stricter Danish legislation.  “There is nothing illegal in this. I can understand that some think that the boat should be registered in Denmark when you have a Danish team, but I dont agree with them. There is no law saying that you should register a boat in Denmark because the main sponsor of the boat is Danish.”

Unethical and bad business moral
The registration is met with criticism.
“It is unethical and bad business moral to have a Danish sponsored boat, representing Denmark in a race, and then behind the scenes have it registered in a country that significantly reduces the safety of the crew due to very convenient rules regarding the qualifications of the boats skipper and navigators”, says yacht master teacher Peter Ingham. “You proclaim to the whole world that we have a Danish yacht, with Danish crew, sponsored by a Danish company and then it turns out that they mislead people to think this is a Danish boat, but in fact, it has nothing to do with Denmark. Nothing” explains Ingham.

Read the full translation in the thread here.

June 17th, 2015 by admin

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Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 1.25.50 AMClean Report

Like almost everyone, I hate awards ceremonies, even when I win something.  And since the ceremony for the VOR leg 2 awards in Cape Town was a 3 hour long snoozefest, I purposefully didn’t bring anything dressier than a ripped pair of jeans to Abu Dhabi, figuring it was a convenient excuse to avoid another parade of dignitaries who like to hear themselves speak. But when VOR media boss Jon Bramley told me ‘you’re my guest tonight’, the writing was on the wall, and jeans would have to do.

And boy, am I glad I went, because it was certainly the most dramatic awards ceremony I’ve ever attended, thanks to a crushing, then heartlifting presentation from OBR Brian Carlin, a choked up speech from Nico, and then the bombshell: Team Vestas Wind CEO and CMO of Vestas Group Morten Albæk’s nnouncement that Team Vestas Wind would be rejoining the fleet with a mostly new boat before the finish.   If you’ve been under a rock for a month, get the full story from my interview with skipper Chris Nicholson in Australia a couple weeks ago.

Details remain a little thin until tomorrow’s Vestas presser after the In-Port Race, but we can tell you a few things we found out:

1) The decision was literally made 24 hours ago.  A week ago they were almost sure it was over.

2) Nico has full control over selecting the crew for the rest of the trip.

3) He will take a few weeks to really mull it over.

4) Themes of redemption and unity in both Nico and Albaek’s speeches lead us to believe that the crew could remain entirely the same

5)  Lisbon may be too soon, but it’s the target.  Lorient is the backup, where we can be mostly certain to see the new blue boat begin her redemption song.

6) Vestas is 100% committed, as is co-sponsor Powerhouse.  They love this race and feel there is really only one choice for them if they want to send the right message to their employees, customers, and the world.

7) We will be able to follow the ‘race to rejoin the race’ via webcam and through updates, and the team’s sponsors are working on a documentary of the whole affair.  In many ways, this wreck – and the way it was handled – are the best and most important things that have happened to the race since the introduction of the Volvo 70.

Got questions for Team Vestas at the presser? Post ’em in the Resurrection Thread here and we’ll do our best to get them answered, and don’t forget we’ve got a great team bringing you live video coverage of the In-Port Race starting tomorrow at 0950 UTC.  That means an early morning for East Coasters and a late night for you Pacific Time folks.

Go here for some title-inspired redemption of your own, and thanks to GCaptain’s story (via shippingnews and the salvors) for the photo.

January 1st, 2015 by admin

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In a fairly amazing salvage operation, Coxy, Nico and the team somehow managed to free the Volvo 65 Team Vestas Wind from the grips of the reef, and she’s already loaded on a MAERSK container ship and bound for Malaysia in incredibly good shape, considering.  The boat will be offloaded and transshipped directly to Italy, where all the ducks are all in a row to put humpty dumpty back together again.  We have no word on whether Vestas management have decided to pull the trigger, but we know Volvo wants to see it happen, and so does the world.  Tell ’em so on Facebook, and help the big blue boat get back in the race!  Talk about it in the Vestas Resurrection thread.

Photo thanks to MAERSK, with more shots and the story of the salvage op over here.

December 22nd, 2014 by admin

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Finally, here is the full story, as only the skipper could tell it.  55 minutes of everything about the why, the how, and the what next after the shipwreck that shocked the world.

Huge thanks to the M32 Series, Gosford Sailing Club, Redhanded TV, Penalty Box Productions, Morten and Team Vestas Wind, and Megan, the blonde groms, and Rusty for helping make it happen, and of course thanks to the Anarchists for giving us mostly excellent questions for Nico.

And if you want to see the boys in blue back in the race, tell them so on Facebook. 


December 17th, 2014 by admin

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We don’t know when we’ll stop finding the entire Vestas Wind drama interesting, but not today, and with the team finally headed to civilization, there’s plenty more to come.  To the few of you who’ve accused us of somehow whitewashing the whole affair or going easy on VOR management, we encourage you to watch this one all the way through; Frostad’s clear and honest answers and obvious admiration for what Nico and crew have accomplished during the toughest moment of their careers are just about perfect, and we’re not sure how anyone couldn’t be on their side after listening to him!

We’ve been told that SA is at the top of the interview list as soon as the team has been properly debriefed in the Emirates.  Got a question for Nico?  Post it here, and don’t bother if it isn’t really good.  The situation deserves more thought than usual.  Hardcore music lovers will know from whence our title comes…


December 6th, 2014 by admin

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As we told you when we first broke the world-exclusive news about Chris Nicholson’s VOR Entry last month, we expect a shit-kicking team aboard Team Vestas Wind, and we’re getting one. As the team puts their sparkling new VOD65 (in its sponsored livery, above) through its sea trials on the UK’s South Coast and gets to know it inside and out, familiar names are bubbling up the list.

Nico first knocked off the shore boss spot, with Neil Cox able to fill that role better than perhaps anyone else alive. Nico then killed two birds with one stone: Danish title sponsor Vestas means a few Danish sailors need to be aboard for the first-ever Danish-flagged Volvo entry, and Dane match racers (and recently, Extreme 40 sailors) Peter Vibroe and Nicolai Sehested got the nod.  They’re also both under 30, which covers that problem too.

A good look at the videos and Facebook photos of several sailors reveal three more names, every one of them a rock star: Rob Salthouse, Wouter (The Router) Verbraak, and Tony Rae all showed up on the boat in the past days.  While none are confirmed as crew just yet, with barely a month to go before the start of the race, there won’t be much trying out.  As if those guys need to.

Just 5 weeks left, boys and girls.  Let’s get that party started.


August 27th, 2014 by admin

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nichoVolvo Ocean Race Breaking News

We’re extremely stoked to be able to report to you with 100% confidence that Chris Nicholson will get another shot at winning the Volvo Ocean Race this coming October!  VOR fans will remember the affable Aussie sailing to a runner-up spot in the last two editions of the race, including an incredible run from the back to nearly a win in the previous race as skipper of Camper.  

Multiple sources have told us the the former 49er standout is the guy with the helm for the final Volvo 65, and the fact that we haven’t been able to reach him despite blowing up a dozen connections over the past two days might even provide a little confirmation in itself (we’re told he is ‘out of internet range’).  This confirms what we reported hearing back in June, but there’s a new twist; rather than Russian sponsorship as we opined, it now appears that one of a select few Danish corporate giants will be footing the bill as title sponsor for a Danish-flagged Volvo 65.

It isn’t hard to name the Danish companies with deep involvement in the Volvo; Satcomm giant Thrane & Thrane and shipping behemoth Maersk have been major corporate partners and sponsors for the race for years, and if the VOR allowed them, either would probably be happy to be a title sponsor for a team put together by a two-time runner-up in the race.  But our favorite rumor, and one that we think may be the real deal, is that monster windpower manufacturer and installer Vestas will be behind the effort.

The name Vestas is probably better-known to our readers than many sailing sponsors thanks to an extremely effective branding campaign with Paul Larsen’s wildly successful  Sailrocket world speed record program, and a Volvo team makes some sense for them; while they still are at the top of their field, significant competition has seen their market share erode since the mid 2000s despite their growth throughout the world.  A major international effort in a green sport like sailing could help drive the Vestas name to a wider audience, while the hospitality part should be easy; Volvo has been accommodating the folks at Maersk and Thrane for years.

While we’re not as sure of the Vestas connection as we are of Nicho’s appearance, allow us some wishful thinking; how cool would it be to have a giant windpower sponsor – one we already dig because of their support of the batshit-crazy overachiever Paul Larsen –  in the sport’s most visible ocean racing challenge?  And with one of the sport’s coolest customers and best racers at the stick?

We love it, and fans of great racing should love it, too.  While it is indeed the 11th hour, with just 8 weeks left until the gun sounds in Alicante, we have zero doubt that Nicho can put together a shit-kicking team, and with Neil Cox back in his role as one of the world’s most highly regarded shore/team managers in the game, we expect the Vestas boys to be damned fast, out of the box.  Bouwe, Ian, Iker, and Nicho all have some seriously unfinished business ahead of them, and it just got a lot tougher to win.

This is going to be war…and we just got a new favorite for the win.


In another bit of somewhat astonishing news that continues to throw the early form guide into disarray, we have also recently learned that France’s most famous and legendary living sailor, Michel Desjoyeaux, will indeed race aboard the Spanish Team Campos, as a Watch Captain, filling in for Iker as skipper during the two or three legs when he’ll be off on Olympic duty in the Nacra 17.  Not many people can say they’ve got MichDej sailing for them as a watch captain.

Want more?  Hit the thread.


August 2nd, 2014 by admin