Two deaths overshadow this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. The British sailor John Fisher fell overboard in the Southern Ocean and was not found again. Off Hong Kong, a Chinese fisherman died when his boat collided with the Vestas team.
Would these accidents have been avoided if the race organizers had taken appropriate precautions?
The target arrival before Hong Kong was moved to a sea area that is known for its density of fishing boats, partly unlit, partly without AIS. Why did the race participants have to sail through this fleet, some in the middle of the night, at speeds over 20 knots?
Why wasn't the finish line a few nautical miles from Hong Kong, outside of this metropolitan area?
For the Southern Ocean stage, the organizers set ice boundaries to protect the teams from collisions with growlers. Why didn't they set a wind limit? Even at the start in Auckland it was clear that very strong winds would be expected on this stage, with extremely tough conditions. Why wasn't the stage postponed for a few days, why not interrupted it and then resume it later in more moderate conditions?
What is the difference between a wind limit and an ice limit?
Every skipper, every sailor who takes part in this race, gets on one of these boats, knows what he is getting himself into, acts independently and is not forced to do anything. Is that really the case? Even every amateur sailor signs when registering for a regatta that he participates at his own risk. If he does not start because of too much wind, that is his decision, it will cost him his travel expenses and free time alone.
In a regatt like the Volvo Ocean Race, however, which is dominated by sponsorship interests and which is a professional sport, acting independently, both by the organizers and by the active participants, is sometimes not an easy matter. A finish a few nautical miles from Hong Kong, although this would have been advisable from a seaman's point of view, could no longer follow the guests of a sponsor flown in up close, only on the screen, it would simply be a much less spectacular spectacle.
A skipper who for this very reason decides not to sail through this sea area to the destination, but to break off the stage prematurely in order not to endanger his team and other seafarers, which would result in a deterioration of his team and his sponsor in the overall classification accepts, you would probably not be seen on board at the next stage.
Postponing or interrupting a stage like the one from Auckland around Cape Horn to Itajai to wait for better weather would completely mess up the schedule, after all, all activities are already planned in the Race Village of the arrival port, including sporty in-port races, with guests on board and live broadcast. And in this case, too, a skipper who would withdraw on his own in order not to endanger his crew would probably hardly be sustainable, especially if everyone else crossed the finish line largely unscathed, at least as far as life and limb were concerned.
Apart from the responsible skipper - does the normal crew member at the end of the chain of command even have the opportunity to act independently?
What should a bow man do if the conditions seem too harsh, irresponsibly harsh to him? Mutiny? Sign off at the next port and sacrifice the financial benefits for the rest of the race? After all, it is a professional sport, everyone involved, whether skipper, crew member or race director, earn their living with it.
And last but not least, wouldn't this race also lose some of its appeal because of such measures?
It lives from the fight of the sailors against the elements, against the clock, against their opponents. If virtually all possible sources of danger were eliminated, wouldn't it be just a coffee trip? Uninteresting for sponsors, in the end there would be nothing to earn for anyone.
Or is the whole problem just artificially exaggerated in the end?
Every dead person is one dead too many, of course! Since the premiere in 1973/74, six people have been killed in the Volvo Ocean Race and 2,100 sailors have taken part. The quota is negligible compared to other sports or events, such as the Dakar Rally, Formula 1, mountaineering or paragliding. The journey to the port by car was probably more dangerous for those involved than the subsequent sailing.
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Have the organizers of the Volvo Ocean Race breached their duty of care? Yes, you would have to minimize such risks by taking appropriate measures. No, the sailors are aware of the risk and act independently, as the name already says: Ocean Race. Neither, nor. With regattas that are so heavily commercialized, sponsorship interests have top priority, and everyone involved benefits from this regatta form. The media coverage of such tragedies distorts the picture; sailing, including the Volvo Ocean Race, is comparatively safe. VoteView results Crowdsignal.com Have the organizers of the Volvo Ocean Race breached their duty of care?
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