Remembering Hans

19 May

Hans and his lovely family

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.
ABN AMRO - the boat that Hans was racing on when he died.

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.

Hans Horrevoets Rookie Award presentation

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Brian Hancock – owner Great Circle Sails
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Hanging with Pam Wall & Etienne Giroire!

17 May
It's been a fantasy-camp of sorts since we got to Florida the other day. Both Pam and Etienne are heroes of ours, so it's super-cool to hang out together now as friends. I still have to pinch myself that we're so lucky to get to do all this! We visited Etienne's shop yesterday down past the airport, and after our little sunset sail, he joined us at Pam's house for a wonderful meal Liz and Mia cooked up for us all. Then we spent the rest of the evening drinking wine and listening to Pam and Etienne tell stories. Read More

Mainsail Trim: luff tension

16 May
This post comes from Jamie, one in a series where he shares his knowledge as a tenured sailmaker. For more about Jamie’s experience in the field, see Sailmaker SAYS!.  Hey sailmaker. Tell me about luff tension. Hey dude, this isn’t Dear Abby. I won’t cover love tension or any other emotional instability you may have… […] Read More

Triumph and some retirements in The Transat

16 May
Armel le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire rolling into the Big Apple

It’s been an action filled weekend as the yachts competing in The Transat bakerly make their way across the Atlantic to New York. First of all French sailor Armel le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire crossed the finish line under clear blue skies off Sandy Hook at 11:27 local time on Saturday morning. It was the first time le Cléac’h had won an IMOCA 60 class in over a decade. He had been second a number of times including in the Vendée Globe, The Transat, the Transat Jacques Vabre and the Route du Rhum so this victory was especially sweet for him. It was a hard fought battle between himself and Vincent Riou who finished just 2 hours, 21 minutes later. Riou revealed that he had lost a couple of crucial sails overboard early in the race and had to readjust his strategy to compensate. With that in mind it’s remarkable how close Riou came to winning. In the early hours of Sunday morning Jean-Pierre Dick rounded out the IMOCA 60 podium to take third place.

Further back on the race course there is sad news to report. The Franco-German sailor Isabelle Joschke has officially retired from the race after suffering structural damage to her port bow. What makes this especially sad is that Joschke had been leading the Class 40 division and it was looking increasingly likely that she would be the first woman to win a major Class 40 ocean race. Joschke is an accomplished sailor with seven Le Figaro campaigns to her credit, but as with many before her she found out the hard way that you can’t win if you don't finish. Her retirement brings British sailor into second place behind yet another French sailor Thibaut Vauchel-Camus aboard Solidaires en Peloton-Arsep.

Isabelle Joschke on Generali
On Sunday British sailor Richard Tolkien (yes he is related to the J.R.R Tolkien) announced that he was abandoning his boat after he was hit in the face while changing sails in a storm. He activated his AIS (Automatic Identification System) to call up the nearest ship and the Anton Topic and its captain and crew were not too far away and came to his rescue. He was taken aboard leaving the tracker on his boat going in the hope of returning with a rescue party.

Perhaps the most poignant news comes from Loïck Peyron who had been sailing Pen Duick II in a voyage of commemoration and to honor Eric Tabarly. Peyron was well ahead of Tabarly’s position at the same point in the race, but sail damage has forced him to abandon the race. “Unfortunately I can not continue into the wind without the necessary sails,” he reported. “So for the moment I am proceeding to  back to France.”

The leading Class 40’s have just over 500 miles to go to the finish and are expected into New York later this week.
Loïck Peyron aboard Pen Duick

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Brian Hancock – owner Great Circle Sails

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Back To The Mainland

11 May
We’ve been back in the good old USA for about a month now. Originally a 2 week trip back home for a family wedding turned into a 3 week trip to see friends and record some music. Now we’re here for 2 months and 3400 miles into a 8,000 mile road trip. Currently I’m writing from a table overlooking the…

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Macif falls short of the record in Transat

10 May

François Gabart has just crossed the finish line off Manhattan after sailing from Plymouth on England’s south coast to New York in 8 days, 8 hours, 54 minutes and 39 seconds. Despite an amazing performance by this incredibly talented sailor his time was not good enough to beat the course record which is held by two time Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux, in fact it was just under an hour more than Desjoyeaux's time. I was not there to see Gabart finish, but I was there when Desjoyeaux finished and it was a thing of beauty. He stormed into Boston harbor at 25 knots, sailed up past Logan airport flying a hull, crossed the line and with one deft move dropped the main. It was as if he had just been out for a couple of hours on the bay.

Despite not breaking the record Gabart sailed a great race and led for most of it from his close rival Tomas Coville on Sodebo. Coville was second to Desjoyeaux in Boston and is the bridesmaid again but nothing can be taken from him. It’s a major accomplishment to sail a 100-foot trimaran alone across the Atlantic. Both skippers chose to sail a non-traditional route dipping way south to avoid strong headwinds. By keeping the wind on the beam or from behind they were able to keep up the speed averages to make up for the extra distance sailed. It was only light, fickle winds for the last 100 miles that scuttled the record from Gabart.

Further back the IMOCA 60’s have been having a ding dong dice with Armel le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire leading from Vincent Riou on PRB and Jean Pierre Dick on Virbak. In the Class 40’s British sailor Phil Clark had been leading but faced a penalty for sailing into an exclusion zone shortly after the start. The penalty was executed by way of a virtual gate – a north-south line in the ocean - established in Sharp’s path by the race director. Sharp had to cross this line and then return to the east of it. He then had to heave-to for six-hours, after which he could cross the line again and resume racing. That little exercise dropped Sharp back into third in a very competitive class that is currently being led by Isabelle Joschke, one of only two women in the race.

The leading IMOCA 60’s should be arriving in New York by weeks end with the Class 40’s showing up early next week.

I hope that you enjoyed this blog. I invite you to subscribe so that you will not miss a blog post. You will get a great free gift and weekly blogs about sails and sailmaking. Click the pic to subscribe.

Brian Hancock – owner Great Circle Sails

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On not playing tourist in Barbados

10 May
Across many of the countries we’ve visited most recently—South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, the British Overseas Territory islands—we stepped into the role of tourist with happy abandon. Taking massive road trips in South Africa, hitting up TripAdvisor hotspots in Namibia. Hiring a guide for day tripping in St. Helena. Renting a car and touring around Ascension […] Read More

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