Environmental laws hamper salvage

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When Team Vestas Wind ran aground in the Indian Ocean on November 29 during the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, the boat was miraculously recovered off the reef and rebuilt to finish the race. The Clipper Round the World Race is struggling to do the same.

Their fleet of twelve identical Tony Castro designed Clipper 70s took a hit when one of them ran aground just hours after the start on October 31 of the third leg from Cape Town, South Africa to Fremantle, Australia. While the crew was promptly rescued, the boat recovery remains a challenge.

While there remains confusion how the crew could have hit one of South Africa’s most infamous ship graveyards, an offshore reef at Olifantsbospunt between Cape Town and Cape Point, the problem now is how the boat has washed up on a protected beach.

Cape Town salvage diver Gary Mills claims officials should have acted sooner to salvage the yacht while it was wedged on a reef, but now with it on the beach, the boat is marooned by bureaucratic wrangling.

Its location in Table Mountain National Park means it is subject to environmental legislation prohibiting potentially damaging activities – such as the use of heavy machinery.

Clipper Race chairman and founder Sir Robin Knox-Johnston confirmed the delay.

“Our objective is to remove [the yacht] as soon as possible and minimise any environmental effect,” he said. “The boat had its fuel removed, removing the risk of contamination. Ultimately there will need to be a judgment call by the authorities on the least-invasive recovery method.”

Mills said the need to salvage the yacht should trump environmental legislation – in the interest of the environment. “The kind of co-operation we are getting from the government is absolutely embarrassing from an international perspective.”