The history of the crewed round-the-world race, which today is called the Volvo Ocean Race but was formerly known as the Whitbread Round the World Race (the first edition was staged in 1973/74) proves that, to quote Vittorio Malingri, “the ocean is not for wimps.” John Fisher, who fell overboard and disappeared in the South Seas yesterday (here the news) is not the only experienced sailor to have lost his life to what to the layman may seem like a fool’s errand (“who makes you go and take risks in the midst of waves, ice, and raging winds?”). (On the cover, Hans Horrevoets, who lost his life at the 2005/06 VOR. AFP PHOTO Martin Stockbridge VOLVO OCEAN RACE)
But that for many sailors represents the highest point in their careers, the one where you can measure yourself 100 percent against the elements and yourself. Starting with the first, tragic, Whitbread, we review in this “fact sheet” the most serious (and sensational) incidents that happened during the World Tour.
WHITBREAD 1973/74: THREE DEATHS
Whitbread earned a reputation as the world’s most dangerous regatta as early as the 1973/74 edition. Three sailors died: Paul Waterhouse, embarked on Erik Pascoli’s Italian Swan 55 Tauranga, and 33 Export skipper Dominique Guillet (pictured) fell into the sea and were never found again, while the British Bernie Hosking, part of the Great Britain II team, was fished out after falling into the Tasman Sea but attempts to revive him were in vain.
WHITBREAD 1981/82: NEAR TRAGEDY
There are no casualties but one was certainly miraculous. Paolo Martinoni (pictured): first man to fall into waters in the South Seas at the 52nd parallel and be recovered alive. We told you all about it here
WHITBREAD 1989/90: ANOTHER VICTIM
At the 1989/90 World Tour on the Punta del Este to Fremantle leg, two members aboard Creighton’s Naturally, Anthony Phillips and Bart van den Dwey, ended up in the water, with the former being fished out lifeless.
WHITBREAD 1993/94: THE BROOKSFIELD CASE
In 1993 Italy held its breath for the boys aboard Brooksfield after the boat broke contact during the leg from Punta del Este to Perth, some 3,000 miles off the Australian coast. The organizers based on the latest surveys assumed the boat’s location and sent the closest competing boats, La Poste and Dennis Conner’s Winston, to the site. Brooksfield was identified.
The rudder had come off the boat, taking a piece of the stern with it. The boat had started taking on water: fortunately, the Wor 60 had the hull divided into watertight bulkheads, so the boys insulated the stern bulkhead, averting the sinking by plugging the hole and mounting the emergency rudder. The chart table, with all the instrumentation, was in the stern and had short-circuited: thus explaining the radio silence of Turin skipper Guido Maisto, Mauro Pelaschier and partners.
VOLVO OCEAN RACE 2005-2006: THE SINKING OF MOVISTAR AND THE DEATH OF HORREVOETS
The 2005/06 Volvo Ocean Race marks the entry of the Volvo Open 70s, made following the dictates of a box rule. These are very fast boats, but perhaps even more delicate than the earlier Wor 60s. We are in the final stages of the round-the-world race, during the seventh leg, the one that engages the ten crews competing on the route from New York to Portsmouth: Movistar, the Spanish boat captained by Dutchman Bouwe Bekking, has a failure in the mechanism that controls the canting keel and starts taking on water. The crew guys try to repair the damage but there is nothing they can do. Sooner or later the boat will sink: Bekking launches the “Pan Pan “as a distress call.
The closest boats are Australia’s Brunel and Sebastien Josse’s Dutch ABN Amro II. The ABN guys take it upon themselves to reach out to Movistar and load the entire crew of 10 on board, with one request: “Make yourselves at home, but don’t help with the maneuvers.” In fact, outside help would mean disqualification, and the Dutch want to finish the stage. What a temperament the ABN Amro II boys have: only three days earlier they witnessed the death of one of their crewmates, Hans Horrevoets, who accidentally fell overboard in extreme weather conditions 1,300 miles off the coast of Cornwall. It took Josse 40 minutes to find the 32-year-old Dutchman, but attempts to revive him once he was hoisted aboard proved futile.
VOLVO OCEAN RACE 2014/15: VESTAS TO REEFS
On Nov. 30, 2014, the Danish boat Team Vestas, captained by Chris Nicholson, ran resoundingly aground in the afternoon in a reef at Cargados Carajos Shoals in the Mauritius area. No one was hurt, but for many hours the crew was forced to stay aboard the damaged VO65 (VO65s took the place of the VOR70s, which were deemed less safe), whose stern was continually at the mercy of ocean waves.
VOLVO OCEAN RACE 2018/19: JOHN FISHER DIES AND THE UNNAMED CHINESE FISHERMAN
We told you about it in depth here. But during the seventh leg, the one from Auckland to Itajaì, the 47-year-old British sailor John Fisher of the VO65 Sun Hung Kai Scallywag fell overboard while the boat was launched at full speed in the South Seas, with winds of 35 knots and water temperature at 9 degrees. No hope of recovering him alive. This edition has already claimed one victim. With 30 miles to go in Hong Kong (in the fourth leg), Vestas’ second-place boat collided with a Chinese fishing boat, claiming one life. The Chinese fisherman killed in the crash is still unnamed.
|Lunghezza (M) (LOA)
|Anno di Progetto