Transcript from this morning's press conference with Team ABN AMRO Two in Portsmouth 23/5/06

A press conference was held this morning at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth following the death of ABN AMRO Two crew member Hans Horrevoets. The following is a transcription of the answers of questions put forward to the team:

Roy Heiner – Technical Sailing Director TEAM ABN AMRO
There is nothing in the world that can prepare you for something like this. These are sailors that need to continue in the future. Hans was a very personal friend, we sailed round the world together and I would like to share with you some of the things we have done with Hans:

The body was transferred in Falmouth, around 0837 yesterday. We spent the night waiting on the Dutch frigate to rendezvous with ABN AMRO Two. We took the body out of the hold, put it on a stretcher, had a minute of silence, and Hans was transferred to the rubber dinghy and put into the frigate van Galen. The frigate went to Dover, where the body was transferred to a helicopter so that it could be taken to Rotterdam, Sestenhoven airport. The family were waiting and saw the body. They were deeply grateful to the crew.

The planning is for the funeral to be on Saturday. The body was released this morning by the coroner.

I have here a statement from the family. Mariek van der Rij, sister of Petra.

In her grief, Petra cannot find her words to express her sadness. We are very grateful to the crew that they were able to recover Hans under these circumstances. Hans and the crew will be in our hearts forever.

This is a very respectful moment. ABN AMRO looks at it like that. One of our team members has suffered an unfortunate moment. I would like to thank ABN for their efforts, for providing assistance and appropriate action in helping Hans, Petra and Horrevoets families in the future. Their will be statements made later.

Roy Heiner
We hope this press conference will promote seamanship and safety on the ocean.
This team has been fantastically courageous, and has done many great things as far as seamanship is concerned, being out there in extreme moments on the ocean. I am very proud of them.

Sebastien Josse (skipper) on what happened
We sailed downwind 25-30 knots wind, I was on wheel, Hans on spinnaker sheet. One nosedive, and Hans was not on board. We started the procedure of rescue for Hans. He did not have a harness or life jacket.

Simon Fisher on what happened
We had all got up for a sail change, had everyone on deck. There was 12 knots of wind. During that change, the wind went from 12-14 knots to 25 knots quite quickly. We put a spinnaker on, and it got quite windy and the waves got big. We went downstairs to put our harnesses on.

Hans was hanging on to the most important sail and would have been the last to go down. The wind was getting up quite quickly. We were in the process of clipping on. Prior to changing the sail, it was our intention that all the crew would wear our harnesses at night. As sailors, we are also trying to make the boat go as fast as we can. We take safety very seriously but at the same time we are sailing a race.

I spent the majority of the rescue operation below. Being the navigator, I was responsible for hitting the man overboard button, making sure we got back to the place where we lost Hans.

It blew me away how professional this team was. In Melbourne we discussed this procedure, so we were all prepared. Within minutes, the boat was completely cleared up. These boats go very fast – downwind at 25 knots, but we were only 1.6 m away from Hans, with the spinnaker down and the boat turned around and going back. It was really, really impressive. The guys on deck had searchlights all ready. Simeon Tienpont had on his diving gear ready to get into water if needed. We motored back up wind as it was too hard to sail in 37 knots of breeze. After about point five of a mile, we found the first life ring we had thrown over the side.

The guys on deck had released jon buoy, an inflatable man overboard device. We put as much stuff in the water as we could to make it as easy as possible to find Hans. Half a mile away we found life ring and at point two of a mile we found the jon buoy, and shortly thereafter we found Hans.

Obviously it has been very difficult. We are a very strong team. We’ve spent a lot of time together in the last year and a half. We’ve been there for each other to deal with the situation. It was unfortunately that we had to pick up the movistar crew, but it was good for our crew to see some friendly faces and talk about it, so it was nice as well.

Gerd Jan Poortman (not on the boat)
For me I had a few days to deal with it and talk with people and prepare myself for the arrival. Personally I was impressed with the clapping. I was relieved; a big weight came off my shoulders. It’s been very sad these last few days but that day was a moment of celebration for me.

Nick Bice on whether Hans was wearing a harness
All the people on deck at the time except Hans were clipped on. He was trimming the spinnaker, the most important sail and the last person to go to get clipped on is that guy. A matter of 30 sec or a minute and he would’ve been down to put on his harness. Everyone else on deck at that time was clipped on.

Roy Heiner
You can’t all go down to clip on at the same time, you have to go down one by one.

Sebastien Josse
Save your life.

Simeon Tienpont
It is your own responsibility to clip on. I work on the bow and get hit a lot by waves and I always wear a harness. In our team, Seb has always been clear about this and so have the watch captains, but it is our own responsibility to clip on, and you have to take that responsibility as well.

Roy Heiner – answering a question about how exactly Hans had died
We will only know this when autopsy is done. We have not heard the results of that.

Simon Fisher on whether ABN AMRO TWO will continue
We will make that decision as a team together. We don’t have to rush. We will make an announcement later.

George Peet on the medical procedure
Upon the man overboard call, there were plenty of people on deck to handle the situation. Once we were turned around and were under control, I went back downstairs with Simon Fisher and immediately contacted the medical people in England and told them the situation, told them my plan, and prepared everything we had. We broke the safety seals, got out all our medical boxes and had all the stuff ready to go. As soon as we got Hans onboard we initiated basic CPR, and life support. We were really, really limited with the facilities we had on board to save someone.

Simeon Tienpont on medical procedure and retrieving Hans from the water
By the time we found Hans, we saw he was drowned. George went for all the cpr. 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, checking on each other, keeping the right pace and being as professional as we could. We tried to warm him up. George and I spoke to the doctors in the UK, and asked them for advice.

After we turned the boat I went downstairs. Each person has a certain task on the boat what to do with a man overboard. We followed that procedure; I put on my survival suit and flares. I sat at the back of the boat. When we found Hans, it was purely a call from Seb as to whether I went overboard or not to help retrieve him. We were doing 3 knots and you don’t want to be dragged away from the boat. When we saw him, he was six metres from the boat. The swell was too big, but we tried once to get to him. Seb decided not to go from the boat again, but to do another two laps and this time he came really close to the boat, and then we could grab him.

Roy Heiner on the safety of the Volvo Open 70
In general, whatever boat you have at sea, it will be dangerous. I think it is a great but we must always remember the sea is a dangerous place.

Luke Molloy
I was actually inside the boat when Hans was washed overboard. We had just finished a sail change, dropping the spinnaker and I was packing it. I was still in my thermals and I went down to put on my harness and foul weather gear with George. While we were getting ready, boat nosedived, heeled to windward, and we heard water coming down the deck. We heard the sail flogging and shaking whole rig. Seb screamed, ‘MAN OVERBOARD everyone on deck’. I got out the hatch and assisted where I could.

Simeon Tienpont
When I came on deck we were preparing for a reef. Lucas and Andrew Lewis had everything set up. I had just packed the masthead spinnaker. I grabbed a grinder. Water swept over the deck. I think two seconds later Seb was saying, ‘where is Hans, where is Hans?’ Within no time we realized he was gone, the spinnaker was flapping, we were grinding it on and nothing was happening of course. Scott Beavis ran straight away to the jon buoy and I went back to the smoke unit and life buoy and threw it overboard. At the time, the guys spiked the spinnaker off and snuffed it down. I went back to grinding and pulling the kite down. Seb and everyone knew we had a plan. We furled the mainsail, got the dagger board down, and we tacked. And I went downstairs to put on my gear for the rescue.

Simon Fisher
While we were trying to resuscitate Hans, Scott Beavis was on deck, motoring downwind to make it as stable as possible for the guys doing cpr. After we stopped, it was a few hours before we got going again. We had to obviously speak to Volvo to make sure everyone clear about what had happened. We had turned around in a rush and the sails had been dropped on the deck quickly. We stopped and tidied our boat up. We ended resuscitation at 0420, and it took an hour to take stock and sit down together as a crew and talk a little. An hour later we were sailing again. At a steady pace, but not race pace. As the hours went by, we were eager to get back into our normal watch system, and a day later we were back to sailing full speed.

Lucas Brun
I was on deck when everything happened, helping Andrew Lewis get kite down, preparing everything. We all did our roles onboard. As soon as we got Hans onboard, it was very tough situation to deal with. He was trimming, joking with you, the next minute we were dragging him out of the water. Nothing can prepare you for that. Then you have to let the person go. Then you have to be on deck in your watch. Normally there are four of us in a watch, now in one watch there were only three. What would we be saying? What would we be talking about? You can’t be prepared, you just can’t imagine.

I think the entire group, not just me, would take the decision to sail the Volvo again. Accidents do happen. This was an accident, it could have happened to any one of us. It is just life.

It was very difficult.

Simon Fisher
I knew it would be hard arriving on dock. It is normally an emotional moment, but it really blew me away when we arrived back here. It drove home how much support there is for everyone in this race, and what a close-knit family we are.

Nick Bice on the movistar rescue
I was steering at the time, when the call came to go to movistar. I just wanted to make sure those guys were safe as well. We have a lot of friends on that boat too. It makes your heart sink. The only thing in my mind was to get those guys off the boat. The call had to be made; whether they had to jump off or stay onboard. It could have been disaster, when Bouwe made his decision, we got them off. I haven’t seen 10 happier guys step onto a Volvo 70, and it was great to get them to shore safely.

Simeon Tienpont on whether he would do the Volvo Ocean Race again
I think so. Of course it blows you away, but I think when you are out there your world is on a Volvo 70. It is 70 feet long and you don’t know what is going on outside that boat. Even if you experience something as dramatic as we had, your world is still there and it is your home home. It is your home and you share it together. I love sailing and what I do. I would do it again for sure.

On safety
I’m not really afraid after accident. Especially after we have gone through the Southern Ocean, where the water was really cold and the nights pretty dark. Everybody started realizing at that stage that if you fall overboard, that is going to be a tough situation. At that stage you think about it yourself. Speaking personally, I always do my own thing; I always clip on, not only for myself but also for the team. Hans was one of the guys on our boat that was always pushing for safety. I don’t feel more unsafe after this than before. I never felt really unsafe. It doesn’t change the sailing.

Seb on rescuing movistar
The fact that we rescued the team from movistar and that we were able to save ten extra lives was an amazing feat.

Simon Fisher on whether they were prepared for the rescue of 10 people?
No. Obviously we did the survival training here in the UK in Hamble, getting in and out of life rafts etc, but never as a team did we try to pick up a life raft and get people off the boat. As difficult as it is, we did it in 10-15 knots of wind and a nasty swell. It was difficult. If we had had to do it in 50 knots, the odds would have been stacked. It was a testament to our crew how professionally they handled it. It was good Bouwe agreed to do it our way. It was done very nicely. The guys jumped into the raft, and we were able to come alongside and pick the guys off their raft. Movistar came around and got the raft back to them and we repeated the whole procedure.

Roy Heiner on movistar
I received a telephone call from Bouwe for the amazingly professional way they ABN AMRO Two carried out the rescue. Not one thing went wrong. He thanked us for it.

Luke Malloy – on life jackets
In Spain we had some really expensive lifejackets with harnesses round legs with jacket around the neck. But it was very comfortable to wear with the weight of the jacket on your neck and it was causing pain down our spines as well as on our necks and shoulders. After leg one, we chose just webbing harnesses and found them easier to wear. You have to find something that is easier to wear. These are ones we like wearing and we wear them readily.

Roy Heiner – the future
It might seem strange, but when we talked in Falmouth we decided our goal was the end of today in our thinking process. We wanted to make sure we could put this press conference behind us and that the sailors could get in the climate to move on. The structure at the moment is that the sailors decide if they compete in the next leg of the VOR. It is the decision of the sailors if they decide to carry on. They have to decide as a team, and we will not allow the team to be split. It is a possible they will not sail, it is possible they will sail. The choice is up to them. After today we will start this process of thinking. Out of respect of Hans, we first have to get through today.

Hans contributed to the success of team, he is embodied in the team. He was completely committed to offshore sailing; he was part of the selection process that selected the team. He only stepped onto boat at a later stage because of a crewmember not able to race. He became part of the crew before the race. It was a complete dream for him. He was completely happy, nothing could be more important to him in his sailing life. He was very compassionate and hard working very team orientated player.

Roy Heiner – on psychologist
We have a professional psychologist with us. She came with us on the boat in Falmouth. She is there to listen and make suggestions. Depending on the situation we found on the boat, she would be able to help professionally. Her name is Luz de Ridder.

Simeon Tienpont on memories of Hans
As a sailor he was of great value. We were talking the first night out. He’d never sailed at night on a Volvo 70. It was blowing over 40 knots of wind, and he showed his value to us as a team. He was really pushing, driving to win and hanging on to the wheel.

He was a very social guy and very pleasant to have on the boat. He was from my own country, and it is always easier if you need to speak with each other, maybe you’re closer sometimes. Every moment we sailed together, we loved it.

George Peet – memories of Hans
Of all the guys on the boat I knew Hans the best. He was the opposite trimmer to me, on the opposite watch. We always had to work closely together on every sail change. We are both really competitive guys, out of the same mould. We almost had a punch-up about two hours before this happened, going into another sail change. Hmm, that was pretty intense. And then all this happened, you can put it behind you pretty quickly. It wasn’t necessarily bad, it is all in competitive spirit. You don’t always see eye to eye, but you try to do it quickly and keep the boat going.

Andrew Lewis – memories of Hans
I was on watch with Hans. Offshore there is a bowman and watch captain, a trimmer and a pitman. I was offshore pitman and Hans was the trimmer. Off watch, he was the person I ate meals with and person I woke up with. Now there are only three people on my watch. It is hard to be woken up by George or Luke and me sitting there by myself. Your off time is your own time, the only chats I had were with Hans. I spent the last four days alone on my off watches cleaning my own dishes and no one there to really talk to. A hard one.

He was always a positive guy, first to grab a bucket to bilge the boat out, first one to strap a bucket over a cap that was leaking. If he didn’t have time to get ready to go up on deck, he would go up in thermals and get soaking wet. None of us will forget. He is one of the reasons I am here. Hans felt we were good enough to sail and we are reaching the next level of sailing. It is so unfortunate, but these things happen. Hans was definitely a very important part of this crew.

Roy Heiner on who the team will be if the boat continues sailing
I think it is too early to say anything, it is completely the choice of the crew if they carry on or not. But what we have said is that there will beno new team members. Either everyone has to do it or no one does it. That means Johnny (Gerd Jan Poortman) would be on the team if the team decides to carry on and Johnny would be part of that decision.