AUCKLAND – Six weeks later, Vestas 11th Hour Racing's American co-founders Mark Towill (above) and Charlie Enright are speaking publicly for the first time as they prepare to rejoin the round-the-world race after missing the last two legs while their boat was repaired."Anytime you're in in a situation like this, that involves the loss of life, everybody was pretty shaken up," Mark Towill said by phone Friday afternoon in Auckland, New Zealand. "Time has passed and we've taken the appropriate time and measures to make sure we're dealing with that properly. Now we're onto the next chapter of this evolving adventure called the Volvo Ocean Race."Towill said the crew has refrained from commenting until now because of investigations and out of respect for the dead fisherman and his family. The damaged yacht had to be shipped to New Zealand, where it was fitted with a new bow section that was built in Italy. They hope to relaunch it in the next few days and then spend time practicing, perhaps even doing an overnight sail. There's an in-port race on March 10 and the 7,600-nautical mile Leg 7 around Cape Horn to Itaji, Brazil, starts March 18. Towill said Hong Kong police interviewed the crew after it arrived in port following the accident. He said the sailors were free to leave and they returned to their homes for a few weeks. Both Towill and Volvo Ocean Race director Phil Lawrence (GBR) said investigations by the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese authorities will be closed shortly with no further action taken. –Bernie Wilson writing in an AP wire story just out, entitled "Tragedy behind it, Vestas to rejoin Volvo Ocean Race." Read Mr Wilson's full story here.
Concurrent with the interview granted to Bernie Wilson, Vestas also issued their own press release headlined "Vestas 11th Hour Racing to rejoin race" and a Q&A with Vestas Project Manager Mark Towill, who was also serving as skipper during Leg 4 to HKG in the absence of Vestas' usual skipper Charlie Enright, who was tending to family matters at his home in Rhode Island.
Bernie's AP wire story also reports that, "The Volvo Ocean Race also announced Friday afternoon New Zealand time that it has commissioned an independent report into ocean racing at night in areas of high vessel traffic in order to establish how race organizers might reduce risk. The effort will be led by retired Australian Rear Admiral Chris Oxenbould with help from Stan Honey, an American who was the navigator on the winning Volvo Ocean Race team in 2005-06, and Chuck Hawley, the former chairman of the U.S. Sailing Safety at Sea Committee. Read the full VOR press release headlined "Volvo Ocean Race initiate independent report" here.
Repairs to Vestas 11th Hour Racing in progress at YDL in West Auckland. March 1, 2018 photo courtesy of Vestas 11th Hour Racing.