It has been then years since Hans Horrevoets was swept overboard and died during one of the final legs of the Volvo Ocean Race. It was a tragedy that effected not only his crewmates and the rest of the teams competing in the race, but it effected all of us who sail. Most, if not all of us who have been out of sight of land have wondered what it would be like to be sitting on deck enjoying the sailing and in the blink of an eye be overboard watching the transom sail away from you. When the weather is up and the rail is down accidents can happen and they come out of nowhere. It’s all over in an instant. Horrevoets was an extremely accomplished sailor aboard one of the best boats in the race, but the breeze was building and he was the last to go down below to grab his harness. In fact he was about to duck below when a cascade of water upended him and in a split second he was gone. The crew, in a masterful piece of seamanship, found his body but it was too late.
We remember Hans on this day ten years later, but we also remember that in the last few months two people have died competing in the Clipper around-the-world race. Andrew Ashman was killed in an onboard accident off the Portuguese coast, and Sarah Young was washed overboard from the same boat a few months later. These are all real tragedies and their deaths should not be minimized, but to be honest it’s amazing that so few people have died while sailing. The Clipper Race continues with 12 boats competing. More than 20 sailors have just finished or are still racing single-handed across the Atlantic in The Transat. The Newport to Bermuda race will be starting next month. At any given time there are hundreds of boats competing in various races all pushing as hard as they dare to win. The weather is a fickle thing; one moment all is just fine and then next it’s blowing a gale. We can never be too prepared.
In the first Whitbread Round the World race in 1973/74 there were three fatalities. Paul Waterhouse, Dominique Guillet and Bernie Hosking were all washed overboard and drowned. Hosting was working the foredeck when a sail that had just been lowered suddenly got caught by a gust of wind and billowed knocking him overboard. Back in those days few bothered to wear a life-harness and man overboard drills were not part of a race requirement. There were no personal EPIRB’s and not much in the way of safety equipment. The good things is that we have learned from those deaths and these days most people are clipped on and carrying some sort of signaling device.
In the 89/90 Whitbread Race two sailors were washed overboard from the maxi-yacht Creightons Naturally. The boat was sailing in the Southern Ocean when Bart van den Dwey and Tony Phillips were swept overboard. The water temps in that part of the world are in the 40s so hypothermia is quick to take hold. The crew managed to locate van den Dwey. He was unconscious but alive and and they were able to resuscitate him and he survived. Not so for Phillips who was found 15 minutes later but he had already succumbed from the cold.
Sailboat racing in an awesome sport and we are lucky to be able to compete in so many different events, but on this ten year anniversary of Hans Horrevoets death let’s take some time to remember those who were not so lucky and to be thankful that we have not taken by some freak wave with our name on it. As part of Hans’ legacy the Volvo Ocean Race has established an award in his name. The award award is given to the outstanding young sailor of each Volvo Ocean Race, the most recent recipient being Sophie Ciszek from Team SCA.
Title inspiration thanks to Ten Years After.