Sailing: Josse saves movistar crew as Bekking abandons ship

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The Independent Online

Disaster again hit the Volvo Race yesterday on the day when Mike Sanderson should have been celebrating not just winning the seventh leg from New York to Portsmouth, but also racking up enough points to ensure that his ABN Amro 1 had taken the overall trophy with two legs to spare.

Instead, his stablemate Sebastien Josse was again in rescue mode, standing by to take on the 10 crew of the Spanish entry movistar after the skipper, Bouwe Bekking, had taken the decision to abandon the stricken yacht. Attempts will be made to recover it.

Bekking had reported, for the fifth time in the race, further major keel and structure problems to the Spanish entry. The 70-footer was taking water, a pump was running full time, and the forecast was for 50-knot winds in already rough seas 300 miles south-west of Land's End.

"The hardest decision I have ever taken in my life was the call to abandon ship," Bekking said. "We saw that the water intake nearly doubled and had to start the second emergency pump. That made me realise that we were actually in way bigger trouble."

The Royal Navy sent HMS Mersey, a fisheries protection ship, from Milford Haven to provide an escort or, if needed, a transfer. Meanwhile, Bekking's crew had used a liferaft to transfer, including food and personal items, to ABN 2. ABN 2 has two 10-man liferafts.

Josse was also still having to cope with bringing back the body of Hans Horrevoets, which was recovered at about 3am on Thursday after he had been washed overboard. Attempts to resuscitate the 32-year-old had failed.

A Dutch navy ship is expected to meet ABN 2 this morning off Falmouth to take off Horrevoets' body and then sail up the Channel until it can meet with a helicopter to complete the transfer to the Netherlands, where the Dutch authorities will conduct the official investigation into his death.

The crew of movistar will also be taken off, leaving ABN Amro 2 to complete the leg and sail into Portsmouth, probably this evening. They will then decide whether to complete the final two legs.

Sanderson's grey, cold, midnight arrival into Gunwharf Quays, while upbeat as far as the triumph was concerned, was enrobed with a pervading sadness at the loss of Horrevoets.

Neal McDonald, back in charge of a revamped crew, secured second place for Ericsson. A worried Paul Cayard brought Pirates of the Caribbean home in third place, consolidating second overall, but his first job now is to remove the keel for damage inspection. Torben Grael's Brasil 1 finished fourth.