This story originally appeared in Dutch on NOS.nl and has been translated to the best of our abilities.
For the first time since the shipwreck, Team Vestas navigator Wouter Verbraak is telling his story. He was asleep, and woke up from the impact, when his boat became stranded on a reef in the Indian Ocean on the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.
“My first reaction was: if the mast is off or we hit a whale,” said Verbraak. “Immediately after that, I went to the nav station to see what was going on. When I saw that it was a reef, I knew immediately we had no chance. We were trapped.”
The crew spent a few exciting days on an island near the reef. However, Verbraak was not afraid. “You have no time for that. I am grateful that we all be home for Christmas, and the story can be told after.”
Verbraak describes his most extreme experience ever: “Not just mine, but the team’s as well. I feel, as navigator, responsible for what happened. But when, shortly after the crash, I wanted to apologize, the response [from the team] was, ‘there’s no need, Wouter, we are all responsible.'”
It is not yet clear whether Team Vestas will able to build a new boat and get back in the race. Should there be a return, then the question becomes whether Verbraak will resume his familiar place as navigator. “That’s not for me to say, but at the moment, it is not yet on the agenda. No one has asked me yet.”
Before returning home, the team evaluated their current state in Abu Dhabi. “Skipper Chris Nicholson has asked everyone if they want to participate again. He just wants to go sailing again, with the whole team.”
For footage of the crash, click here.