The Vestas Wind Case: Why didn’t they spot the Cargados Shoals

During the well-known Volvo Ocean Race in 2014, one of the competing boats, Vestas Wind, came unstuck and ran aground in the Cargados shoals. But how did such a well drilled team of individuals and professionals end up making this navigational mistake?

vesta boat crash
Image of Vestas Wind aftermath

As is described in their race report. The captain chose to take this route through the shoals as he believed that the shoals were 50 meters deep underwater. They ended up in the vicinity of the shoals at night time and it was only once they had entered the shoals that they spotted cresting waves that immediately prompted them to arrive at the stark conclusion that they were but moments away from crashing into the jagged shoals that jutted out from the water just meters from their boat.

Unfortunately it was already too late, they had no time to turn around or head back and the inevitable occurred as they hit into the rocks, coming to a stop after 50 meters of grazing along the rock formation. However thanks to the vast experience of the captain, all the correct procedures led to the team being able to evacuate the somewhat depleted vessel in the early hours of the morning all in remarkably good shape.

Obviously in such a competitive race, taking risks is part and parcel with the sport. Due to the prevailing winds and a software that didn’t have safety route planning and that perhaps as they themselves stated did not provide accurate mapping, they ended up coming up croppers.

Discover the video of the crash taken by the on-board camera:

TIMEZERO technology is now equipped with Safety Route Planning and Security Cone features to ensure that the risk of running aground as was the case for Vestas Wind is as minimal as possible. We also provide the latest up to date vector charts from C-Maps and Navionics to equip yourself with and be as prepared as possible.

vestas wind

Having taken a look on our TIMEZERO software and found that they were probably situated as shown by the yellow/black dot on the map below. Our software shows them entering the shoals marked by the dotted boundary.

We decided to investigate using our new feature available for TZ Navigator v3 and TZ Professional v3. The feature which is an enhancement of the old Routing feature has an added advantage, the Safety Route Planning now allows you to set a margin for error for the depth. In this case, although the area is marked with Xs and there happens to be two shipwreck marks on the island itself, we decided to create a margin for error of 15 ft. to investigate.

L’affichage sur l’écran est clair : cette zone n’est pas navigable !
This screenshot clearly displays that this zone is not navigable!

It became apparent that with our new software it would have been impossible to create a route through this area without the route turning red indicating that it is a no go area.

TZ red route

TZ green route
Different routes tested out around the estimated crash site using TIMEZERO


Whilst the realm of around the world racing is far distant from the average sailor which has far more margin for error, we can say that even with TIMEZERO software and the latest chart updates, you must always take into account a margin for error.

Why not find out more about our latest products TZ Navigator v3 et TZ Professional v3 and in particular the Safety Route Planning feature:

tz3 tzp3