The Volvo Ocean Race remembers the loss of Dutch sailor Hans Horrevoets in the 2006 edition of the race

In an unusual and poignant gesture the Volvo Ocean Race today marked one of its greatest tragedies. A release was issued to comemorate  the tenth anniversary of the death of Dutch sailor Hans Horrevoets, who died after falling overboard from ABN AMRO Two on 18 May 2006.

The 32-year-old was swept overboard when the boat buried in a big wave while racing between New York and Portsmouth. Horrevoets was one of the crew on what was termed the ‘youth’ boat of sailors aged mainly under 30 and was the ‘B’ boat to the race winning ABN AMRO One.

Race organsiers seldom like to recall incidents and tragedies, but the Volvo Ocean Race, now under the management of CEO Mark Turner, has decided not to shy away from the darker aspects of its history. Instead it has boldly marked this date with a memorial, demonstrating that, however shocking and scarring, his life and death is a part of the race.

Hans Horrevoets on ABN AMRO Two

Hans Horrevoets on ABN AMRO Two

Here we look at our report after the incident in 2006.

‘The news that no one wanted to hear came on the morning of 18 May 2006. Crewmember Hans Horrevoets failed to regain consciousness and died after being swept overboard from ABN AMRO Two.

‘ABN AMRO Two was sailing downwind in 25 to 30 knots of wind under mainsail, fractional spinnaker and staysail at 0200. Skipper Sebastien Josse was at the helm, Horrevoets, 32, of the Netherlands was trimming the spinnaker sheet, Nick Bice, Andrew Lewis and Lucas Brun were also on deck. A wave washed down the deck and when the water cleared Hans was no longer on board.

‘Navigator Simon Fisher was below decks at the time co-ordinating the rescue: “Within minutes of the incident the boat was completely cleared up. We were only 1.6 miles away from Hans when we had the spinnaker down, the staysail furled and the daggerboard down, ready to turn back upwind.

“The search lights were ready, Simeon was in his drysuit and diving gear ready to get into the water if he needed to. It was too hard to sail as there was 37 knots of wind by that stage so we lowered the mainsail. When were about half a mile from the MOB position we found one of the liferings that we’d thrown over the side. Then at 0.2 miles we found the Jon Buoy and shortly after that we found Hans.

“He was lifted back on board and the Accident and Emergency department at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, UK (race emergency medical care backup) was notified that we had a major medical emergency and to stand by. In the meantime, Hans was moved down below.

“No pulse was found so CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) was initiated by the crew. CPR was stopped at 0420GMT. Unfortunately our attempts to resuscitate him were not successful.”

The fact that the boat and its young crew were able to turn around and locate the missing crew member was an impressive display of seamanship. With boat speeds well into the twenties, even at a modest 20 knots, ABN AMRO Two would have travelled 10m for every second. A minute would be 600m, two minutes 1,200m. Spotting a crewmember in the water at night would be impossible.

At a press conference shortly after their arrival the issue of how Horrevoets went overboard was clearly the most sensitive. When asked whether the Dutch crewmember was hooked on, skipper Sebastien Josse replied: “He had no harness and no lifejacket.”

According to Simon Fisher, the breeze increased quickly and one by one the team were going down below to put on their harnesses, but Horrevoets, who was trimming the spinnaker at the time, had yet to put on his.

Hans Horrevoets was the oldest crew member of ABN AMRO Two. He and his partner Petra had one daughter. He was part of the judging panel for ABN AMRO Two and helped selected the high potential young sailors who formed the crew.

As a helmsman/trimmer he had brought with him a wealth of experience. He sailed in the 1997-1998 Whitbread on board Brunel Sunergy with Roy Heiner and he had competed in a number of other high profile races and regattas.