Living on the edge of stupidity?
Sailing

Living on the edge of stupidity?

Part of the responsibility for John Fischer's death lies with the organisers of the Volvo Ocean Race, says Brian Hancock, a yachtsman who has participated in three round-the-world regattas.
Share

One of North America's most experienced sailors, Brian Hancock, has written a column for Sail magazine about the tragic events that led to the death of yachtsman John Fisher in the Volvo Ocean Race. Brian Hancock is a member of three Whitbread Round the World, the ancestor regattas of the Volvo Ocean Race, and the author of the popular book about sails, Maximum Sail Power.

With a few shortcuts, we transferred his painful and angry fast.

It's absurd to walk on these boats under these conditions. Part of the responsibility for John Fischer's death lies with the Volvo Ocean Race team.

Any little or no sensible yachtsman would agree that sailing to the Southern Ocean on boats with little or no onboard protection is very likely to cause trouble.

Watch the video footage from the boards. There are quite a few, and they're convincing. The boats go down the crest of the wave at 25-30 knots just to crash into the wave ahead, which cascades the deck with water across the waist. How many times can one test one's fate until someone is washed off the deck?

It's great that John Fisher had all the mandatory rescue equipment on him. If there was anything else it could do for him.

I have watched the world around me closely and I know that the normal speed of boats in it is more than 20 knots. At this speed the crew of Scallywag could only turn around when the boat was already very far from the place of the tragedy. Poor John Fisher could blow into his red whistle as much as he liked - he could not be detected. For to turn the boat around, the crew had to take off the spinnaker, pull the front sail out of the hold and put it up. They couldn't walk straight in the wind, only with tackes, and who knows - maybe they were quite close, maybe John Fisher was on the next wave, but they couldn't see him. If you've ever seen the waves of the Southern Ocean, you'll understand why.

Yes, the Volvo Ocean Race has a motto - Life at the Extreme. But at the limit of what, human stupidity?

I feel sad and angry at the same time. In other offshore races, sailors race through the oceans on normal boats, and by normal I mean protection on decks. The great François Gabart toured the globe on his huge trimaran without going out on deck at all! All schools were set up in an enclosed wheelhouse and he could work with sails from a safe and secure place.

The designers knew it was dangerous to go out on the open deck in harsh weather conditions. The organisers of the VOR knew that, too.

But instead of taking any security measures, they decided to celebrate their stupidity with the idiotic slogan "Life at the Extreme".

Call me whatever you want, but I have a right to my opinion. I've walked in these waters many times and I know what it's like when a cold gray wave crest rises from behind to throw you down. The only difference is that I walked twice as slow as the race.

The management of the Volvo Ocean Race must have refused to admit that their monotype class is a death trap and now that trap has slammed and unfortunately John Fischer is no longer available.

Share
Found an error in the text?

Select the desired fragment
and press ctrl+enter,
or click here.

Please let us know about the error.