johnweekes2.pngJohn Weekes

John Weekes is an NZME. News Service reporter based in Wellington.

The skipper of the yacht that ran aground on a remote reef yesterday says the boat took a "massive pounding."

The Team Vestas Wind crew, including Kiwi yachtsmen Rob Salthouse and Tony Rae, had to abandon ship after their yacht ran aground during the Volvo Ocean Race about 4am yesterday (NZT).

The yacht, taking part in the second leg of the round-the-world race, was wrecked on remote Cargados Carajos Shoals, also known as St Brandon, some 450km north-northeast of Mauritius.

In an interview with Volvo Ocean Race organisers today, skipper Chris Nicholson said the crew were doing remarkably well after their ordeal.

The hi-tech boat was ruined.

"It's extensively damaged. It took a massive, massive pounding," Mr Nicholson said.

In the interview published shortly before noon NZT, Mr Nicholson said he had to make the hardest decision of his life when the boat smashed into the shoal.

"When you talk about the tough decisions you have to make in life, I have to say that was number one for me, and it's one of those ones where, okay, we hit the rocks and we had massive damage," he said.

"The immediate concern was just for people to be able to hang onto the boat and buy time until the situation got better...basically the boat has to destroy itself to end up more on the rocks and out of the breaking waves. I can't begin to describe how hard it was literally just to hang on."

Mr Nicholson said there was "a sense of real relief and feeling lucky amongst the crew" after the ordeal.

The skipper and his crew were now focussed on salvaging what they could from the yacht.

"Retrieving diesel, oil, hydraulics from the boat -- and we've got another full day planned tomorrow. The damage is massive in the boat."

The crew had taken shelter in a house on Ile de Sud in the archipelago.

Josh Salthouse said his dad Rob rang his family back home in Auckland about 7.45pm yesterday.

"They haven't slept, obviously. They're all extremely exhausted and just in shock still at the whole thing. He said it was a miracle no one was injured."

The yacht smashed into the reef head-on at 20 knots -- about 37km/h.

Mr Rae's daughter Katie said the sailor had checked in with his family last night. "He is safe and well and naturally devastated by what has happened," Ms Rae said.

Race organisers said a ferry service or supply boat would pick up the crew within the next 48 hours and take them to Mauritius.

Event organisers had sporadic contact with crew through a satellite phone.

"They're really in the back of beyond, to say the least. From all accounts there's hardly anything there," Volvo Ocean Race media director Jon Bramley said.

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01.12.2014 (01.12.2014)
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