There is an old Roman proverb that says "navigare necess est" which translated means it is necessary to sail. Many of us in this area live by that proverb - some more than others. We have our day sailors, are weekend racers, some who compete in other harbors on Long Island Sound, and those who are pulled to blue water competition, such as the Bermuda Race. Then there are those sailors who go for the ultimate race, which most would agree, would be the Volvo Ocean Race. This race, which was formerly known as the Whitbread Round The World Race, takes place every four years and is considered the world's premiere ocean race. This professionally crewed event covers 32,250 nautical miles in approximately eight months, circumnavigating the globe with the prevailing winds. It crosses five continents and four oceans, touching some of the toughest areas and most extreme weather conditions in the world. This year the Volvo Ocean Race has teams on board a new class of boats, called the Volvo Ocean 70, a longer boat with less crew, making the race even more challenging than in the past. The Race has nine legs, and one "pit stop." This stop happened to be the North Cove Marina in New York City.
North Cove Marina was a Mecca for sailors on the two-day pit stop for the Volvo Ocean Race. When Dennis Conner decided to develop this area to bring more sailing events to New York, he must have had this race in mind. And considering that Manhattan is an island, more sailing events should be taking place in and about town. Manhattan is so big and has so many events going on, one might be concerned that the Volvo Ocean Race would be little noticed. Not so. MSNBC highlighted the event on the Squawk Box, when they interviewed Carl-Henric Svanberg, CEO and President of Ericsson, sponsor of Ericsson Racing Team. The interview even placed Svanberg on the dock in front of the Volvo Ocean 70s, all lined up waiting for their sail across the pond the next day. According to Svanberg, "A sailing race is the perfect metaphor for what we are doing every day at Ericsson together with our customers." And The New York Times placed a photo of one of the Volvo 70s right on the front page. This set the stage for a terrific two days down by the waterfront in New York City.
In addition to the dock which was open to the public, there were press conferences before the start of the race. Ken Read, helmsman in the America's Cup on Stars and Strips in 2000 and 2003, and competed in 1995 on Young America, and winner of 41 national, North American and World Championships, hopped on board in Baltimore, MD. When asked to describe the race so far, Ken replied with a "cold and wet", not once, but several times. But he admitted he knew what he was getting into. Then Neal McDonald, skipper on the Ericsson Racing Team, surprised him with a course change that will take the team on a northerly route out of New York, which will be extra cold, damp and wet. Read just rolled his eyes and laughed. Unfazed, Read continued, "It's a privilege and honor to sail with these guys and to go to battle with them. I just keep asking questions, am trying to get the attitude on boat as high as possible, and bring a fresh approach." Coming into Baltimore, the team was in fifth place, moved up to fourth place by the time they arrived in NYC, and continue to improve in their ranking. McDonald commented on their place, "Keep fighting to the end and are going to get out there and work our hardest."
The race across the pond is the classic ocean racing route: Ambrose Light to the Lizard, then on up the English Channel to the Solent and Portsmouth. There have been plenty of record runs from the Ambrose Light to the Lizard, and the Transatlantic race that started it all in 1905, won by the legendary Charlie Barr in Atlantic, was on this course. For the Volvo Ocean Race, the start was just off Battery Park, at the tip of Manhattan and almost in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. After the gun went off, the boats raced under the Verazzano Narrows Bridge, then on past the Ambrose Light tower before tackling the Atlantic crossing.
Ericsson Racing Team did just what their skipper said they would do. They went north and worked their hardest. As of last Thursday, they were in second place, about 180 or so miles behind ABN AMRO TWO. But tragedy struck. Hans Horrevoets, a crew member aboard ABN AMRO TWO, died after being swept overboard from the boat. ABN AMRO TWO was sailing downwind in 25 - 30 knots of wind under main, fractional spinnaker and staysail. Seb Josse, Skipper of ABN AMRO TWO was at the helm, Hans, 32 of the Netherlands was trimming the spinnaker sheet. The boat nosedived down a wave and water came washing back down the deck, when the water cleared Hans was no longer on deck. ABN AMRO TWO Navigator Simon Fisher explained the incident, "Immediately Seb hailed a 'man overboard' and we initiated man overboard procedures and put in place the GPS positioning. The boat immediately turned around and began to search for him, meanwhile raising the alarm on shore. After Hans was found he was lifted back on board and the Accident and Emergency(A&E) department at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, UK was notified that we had a major medical emergency and to stand by. Unfortunately our attempts to resuscitate him were not successful." On Monday, May 22, off the English coast near Falmouth, Hans Horrevoets was transferred to a Royal Netherlands Naval frigate from ABN AMRO TWO to be taken to his home town in the Netherlands. In winds of 25 knots, French skipper Seb Josse and his crew bid an emotional farewell to their much loved friend and teammate. On Tuesday, May 23, the crew arrived at Portsmouth in the darkness of late night, and were greeted by a crowd that had gathered. Someone in the crowd started clapping, and within five seconds the whole crowd, sailors, wives, girlfriends, shore crew, passersby and crew from all the teams of the race, stood and clapped, and clapped and clapped. And as the sailors came on shore, the clapping ceased and there was complete silence in respect for what these teammates have been through.
The Volvo Ocean Race, an exciting quest for one of the most prestigious prizes in the sailing world, does not come without its dangers. Sailing can be a dangerous sport, and even with the best trained crews, tragedy is always just over the next big wave. Our thoughts go to the family and friends of Hans Horrevoets, and to his teammates on board ABN AMRO TWO. Racing will continue as Hans would have wanted, and ABN AMRO TWO will be on the starting line for the next leg, which will take them from Portsmouth to Rotterdam, and then on to finish in Gothenburg. For more information: http://www.volvooceanrace.org
Correction: The Box That Changed the World - Fifty Years of Container Shipping - An Illustrated History was written by Arthur Donovan and Joseph Bonney. The last column neglected to include Mr. Bonney as the co-author.