On May 18 2006, tragedy struck the Volvo Ocean Race, when Dutch sailor, Hans Horrevoets, was swept from the deck of ABN AMRO Two. In a superb feat of seamanship, his crew mates managed to turn the Volvo Open 70 and find Hans, but he never regained consciousness.
The young crew, which Hans had helped to select, had on board a team mate who would never leave his bunk and go on watch again until, at 08.37 GMT on 22 May, off the English coast near Falmouth, Hans Horrevoets' body was transferred from ABN AMRO Two to the frigate RNLMS Galen, which had come to take him home.
Hans left behind his wife, Petra, his little daughter, Bobbi - who had waved "Goodbye" as the fleet left the pontoons - and Bump, as he affectionately called his unborn child. Petra may have gained some small comfort at the honour the Netherlands paid to Hans and the fact that flags flew at half mast in sailing communities around the world, including the America's Cup in Valencia.
Tributes to Hans Horrevoets poured into ABN AMRO and were posted on internet sites worldwide. Many spoke of his sailing skills and experience, his desire to help young sailors, his cheerfullness, steadfastness and the many other qualities that endeared Hans to everyone who met him.
We bring you the thoughts of just two people; Alan Block, who had a brief encounter in a bar and Carlos “Lua” Mauro, who knew Hans well.
Hans Horrevoets - the laughing Dutchman
I spent a single day with the Volvo competitors, in Baltimore, last month. Most of that day I sat in wonder at the intense levels at which the sailors functioned, whether prepping, sailing, navigating or planning. I was surprised that every single one of these professionals was as enthusiastic about their race and the sport as a pumped-up junior laser sailor. Sailing is their passion first and their job second.
I spoke with dozens of sailors and support crews during the day and some of the guys from ABN One invited me to come meet them at a nearby bar to say hello to the others. With my travelling partners asleep in the parked truck, I ran over to the bar and was surprised to see the entire ABN-AMRO team there joking around and having fun. I joined Bob Greenhalgh, Andrew Lewis and some others I didn't recognise for a drink. We raised our glasses in hopes for a stiff breeze to New York for the powerful ABN boats. We traded war stories and bawdy jokes, as sailors do, and the loudest laughter came from a crazy-haired, square-jawed Dutchman. His smile was as bright as the white-painted carbon on the boat he sailed. His laughter and his smile reverberated through the bar as other team mates got closer to hear the jokes. Even the waitresses sidled up to the table to hear this man laugh. I looked at my watch and realized that a five-minute hello had turned into a 30 minute visit to the ABN comedy club.
As I said my goodbyes to this congenial and inspiring group, the Dutchman told me his name was Hans, and that he was glad to have met me. We spent less than a half hour together, but I will never forget the way his laughter filled that room.
Hans Horrevoets - Why?
Why do certain things happen? Why do certain things that make us feel so bad insist on disturbing our lives and disrupting our emotions? Why, why and why, can be forever and constantly asked and we will never get a proper answer. Hans, being the special person you have always been, we will always remember you with particular affection.
We will remember how much you dedicated - heart and soul - to the task of selecting before the race a young and inexperienced crew and making them Sailors with a capital S. All the while knowing before everybody the answers to what you were looking for.
What a tough task, heh? Only you can know exactly how much it took of patience and talent to do it. After all you were being, at the same time, the judge, the teacher and the mate who would allow them to take part in a shared dream! One that is so big, important, significant and essential because it takes courage, knowledge, strength, dedication and sacrifice. In massive doses.
This takes a lot of passion also, isn’t it? The typical kind of passion that is a privilege of few. This kind of passion, before we know it, turns into the focal point where millions can join in in their dreams of a better life. Yes, Hans, we will always remember with particular fondness that tough and demanding period.
Many more will always remember you for other aspects of your life, with their own particular thoughts. More personal, detailed, colourful, older or newer, it does not matter. We are absolutely sure that they are as important and the enormous volume of these good remembrances of you will make us temporarily forget the Why. Until the inevitable moment when each of us will also know the answer that you already know, once again before we do.
Carlos “Lua” Mauro