A horrifying man overboard incident has led to the death of a competitor in the Aegean 600 offshore race in Greece

The fourth edition of the Aegean 600, a relatively new 605-mile offshore race around the islands of Aegean, has been marred by the death of a competitor yesterday, Tuesday 9 July.

Meltemi winds and acceleration zones around the islands saw competitors racing in wildly varying conditions, fluctuating from windspeeds in the high 40 knots in the channels to near-calms whilst in the lee of islands.

After passing through a gate at Santorini in the early hours of Tuesday 9 July, by the afternoon the bulk of the fleet was heading downwind towards the next passing point at Kassos.

The course of the Aegean 600 offshore race in Greece

The Pogo 44 Heaven crew were working to bring their spinnaker under control when two crew members, who had been on the bow assisting with the sail, fell overboard.

The team immediately activated their man overboard procedures and managed to retrieve both crew members within a few minutes.

One crew member was severely injured, the other unhurt. The Heaven team called for emergency assistance and a rescue helicopter was dispatched to the scene. Tragically, the injured crew did not respond to attempts to revive them. The crew member who died has been confirmed as a 40-year-old Frenchwoman.

A Hellenic Coastguard vessel also accompanied the boat to make port on Kassos.

In a statement from organisers, skipper Andrii Prokopenko said: “We believed our team mate was unfortunately hit by the boat’s rudder.

“The water was full of blood from the impact and we did our very best to treat this severe injury. We are devastated by this terrible accident.”

“We take safety preparation very seriously,” said Ioannis Maragkoudakis, Commodore of the Hellenic Offshore Racing Club (HORC). “This is why we offer seminars and provide a thorough and informative guidebook for both safety and weather conditions of this race to help teams comply with the safety regulations and learn more about this course.

“Regardless, sometimes accidents can happen, such as today. We and all participants in the event will mourn this terrible loss on board Heaven, and we extend our deepest condolences to the friends and family of this lost sailor.”

According to the event website, the crew members and the captain of Heaven are in custody at the Kasos Port Authority and will be released after the deposition is completed.

On the edge

First to finish were the MOD 70s Zoulou and Argo, Erik Maris’s Zoulou just ahead of Jason Carroll’s Argo by 1m 21s, having set a new multihull course record at an average speed of 16.2 knots.

Line honours winners in the Aegean 600, the MOD 70 Zoulou. Photo: Deea Buzdugan/Aegean 600 HORC

Zoulou crew member Miles Seddon expressed his condolences after the race: “It will always be an honour and a privilege to fly these boats around a race course. But this was a bit different, it was on the edge of what we can do,” he posted on social media.

“We may have crossed the line first, but the real winning was the shared look, embrace and beer with our friends and competitors on @argoracing back at the dock.

“Unfortunately that will not be the same for everyone, my thoughts go out to the family and crew mates of the French boat Heaven, who lost a crew member last night.”

The Zoulou team posted: “Our result in the tough edition of the @aegean600 race has been rendered totally irrelevant by the death of a crew member on the yacht Heaven. Having been made aware of this tragedy long after we crossed the finish line, our thoughts and deepest condolences go to the family, loved ones, friends and crew mates of the victim.”

A brutal race

The Argo team also shared their condolences: “The Aegean 600 was quite the adventure with a healthy northerly ‘Meltemi’ wind blowing very strongly for the duration of the race.

“It was a contest marked by death as one of the crew members from the Pogo 44 Heaven lost her life after going overboard and sustaining a fatal head injury. The Argo team sends our deepest condolences to the victim’s family, friends, teammates and loved ones.

“It was a brutal race with fresh, gusty winds keeping us very much on our toes for the duration. Our congratulations to the Zou Lou squad who pipped us to the post by 1M 20S to claim line honors and a new outright record for the race. It was a neat trick of conservative sailing and seamanship to get around the course with winds often over 40kt with a peak of 50kt through the Mykonos channel.

“It was regarded by our experienced crew as one of the hardest races they had ever done with endless sail changes and reefs in/out required to stay in line with the wildly changing conditions.

“The results certainly aren’t important when put in context with a life lost. We’re happy to have completed the course and our hearts go out to the crew member from the yacht Heaven that lost her life.”