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Bluewater sailor honored for heroics

MARCH 28 — Australian Olympic and world champion sailor Chris Nicholson was recently presented with Volvo Ocean Race’s supreme seamanship award.

Nicholson, a watch captain on the Spanish yacht movistar, was honored for his efforts to prevent the 70-foot sailracer from sinking off Cape Horn, according to a news report. Nicholson accepted the award at a function held March 25 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and attended by more than 1,000 people.

During the fourth leg of the race from Wellington, N.Z., to Rio de Janeiro, a fairing around the keel was torn from the boat and water began flooding the engine room, according Volvo’s report of the incident. Water was knee-deep below decks at about 3:15 a.m. when skipper Bouwe Bekking called for all hands. Water had washed over the generator box, and was close to washing over the engine box when the crew started bailing. That’s when Nicholson slipped under the rising water to connect two emergency high-capacity bilge pumps directly to the battery bank.

“[Nicholson] realized there was only one thing to do — wire the pumps directly to the battery terminals so they would start and not stop running,” he says in the news report. “The batteries were underwater in watertight bags, so each time I dived to find the terminals and try to secure the cables to them I was saying to myself, ‘Oh dear, I know what’s coming here, a bloody great whack.’ ”

Each time Nicholson touched the battery terminals he received a 24-volt shock. “There were a few arcs and sparks and plenty of bad words from me each time I copped a boot,” he says of the painful troubleshooting task.

Once the water was pumped movistar was taken to Argentina for repairs before the crew continued on to the finish in Rio, according to the report.

—Jason Fell