Tragedy in rough seas for Lewis’ crew
THE hazards of open-ocean sailing are abundant, but never so much as when the voyage is of a competitive nature and the crews and vessels are being pushed to their limits.
This was recently exemplified tragically by the news that Hans Horrevoets, a crewmember aboard the Volvo Ocean Race entry ABN AMRO TWO, died after being swept off the boat by a large wave.
The fact that the accident happened in the North Atlantic as the race was nearing its finish made the 32-year-old Dutch sailor's death all the more heartbreaking.
I have written before about this globe-circling contest because one of Horrevoets' fellow crewmembers has been 23-year-old Andrew Lewis, a graduate of Honolulu's ASSETS School and the youngest member of the ABN AMRO team.
Like most of his friends and family, I had breathed a sigh of relief when Lewis' boat completed its eastward run in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean, rounded Cape Horn and headed into the comparatively safer Atlantic.
And yet, when the tragedy struck -- as the fleet crossed the North Atlantic from New York to Portsmouth, England -- the conditions weren't all that different.
Many of the boat's crew gave chilling accounts of the accident at a press conference in Portsmouth this past week and their testimony accentuated how close to the edge such racing can be.
Apparently Horrevoets had been last in line to go below deck to change into appropriate gear for the conditions that had changed from winds of about 12 to 25 knots in a matter of minutes.
"It got very windy very quickly, the seaway got very big," said navigator Simon Fisher. "One by one we were all going downstairs to put our harnesses on and Hans, being the guy who was trimming (the spinnaker sheet) and holding onto the most important sail on the boat, was the last to go down."
At approximately 2:10 a.m., perhaps a minute before he would have gone below, a large wave swept the deck and Horrevoets was washed overboard.
The boat's man-overboard procedures were begun immediately and "within minutes" the crew had dropped the sails and had the boat turned around to recover their lost member.
"By the time we found Hans, we saw he was drowned," crewman Simeon Tienpont related. "As soon as we got him on the deck, we had him downstairs within a minute and we started immediately, with five of us trying, to resuscitate him."
After contacting doctors in England by radio for advice, resuscitation ended at 4:20 a.m. and sadly, Horrevoets was declared dead.
In an e-mail message from England to his friends and family, Hawaii's Lewis wrote, "Thanks for everyone's support and phone calls. We are all doing well and I hope we all learn from what has happened and keep on sailing and doing what we love."