Last May, I had the chance to meet some of the sailors involved in the Volvo Ocean Race. They didn't fit my predetermined image of sailors. These professional racers were some of the best athletes I've ever met.
I got an up close view of their lives when I lunched with a crewman of the ABN Amro Two at a restaurant that overlooked Baltimore's Inner Harbor. His sleek, mono-hull engineering masterpiece was moored with the six competitors in a slip just below our window. The race was at one of its scheduled stops of the 32,000-mile, around-the-world journey that concluded the next month.
My view began with a dramatic video of what it was like aboard the racing sailing boat. As I ate fish and chips, I saw what race organizers meant when they said it was “life at the extreme.” Then, with a clipped British accent, the sailor talked about a competition that combined speed, weather, and waves. (You can see exciting videos of the Volvo Ocean Race by visiting www.volvooceanrace.org.)
One aspect that I found surprising was the crew's approach to safety. The videos showed crew members outfitted in harnesses and helmets with face shields working on slippery decks. The shields were specially designed to ward off saltwater from their eyes as they hit high waves. And along with the proper gear, the sailors described how each captain constantly focused on training.
A few weeks later, I was surprised to learn that a crewman from this boat had died at sea.
According to various press reports, Hans Horrevoets, a professional racing sailor for more than 10 years, had been swept overboard. According to a story written by G. Bruce Knecht in The Wall Street Journal, crewmembers said Horrevoets was not wearing a life preserver or a harness. During a news conference following the accident, Knecht reported that the crew maintained that the lack of a harness and being secured to the boat with a lifeline wasn't a safety problem. “They (the crew) argued that it is impossible to be constantly clipped in. ‘We take safety very seriously,' Mr. Fisher said, ‘But at the same time we were racing,' ” the story went.
I'm not sure I buy into the idea that winning at all costs should be the mantra for a successful endeavor. True, a few months earlier, Horrevoets and his crew set the world single-day sailing distance record by traveling 546 miles. But in the end, the boat not only finished fourth in a six-boat race. The crew had to come to grips with their own personal loss.
Fortunately for our industry, managers know the value of safety. That's the reason why we can honor so many of you in this issue, as we publish the TCP's Safety Honor Roll. Congratulations to all of you.
And again, I urge you to share this honor with your local community. I'm still convinced we don't take enough time to spread our good news to our neighbors. If you would like an extra copy of the magazine so you can send it to your local newspaper, just send me an e-mail.
EDITOR IN CHIEF