A Death in the Family
The awful thing about losing a man at sea, as Richard Henry Dana once put it, is that you miss him so much. Though relatively few knew him personally, an enormous pang of loss and regret passed through the entire ARC fleet on Saturday, November 30, less than a week after the start, when word came down that Phillip Hitchcock, age 47, had fallen overboard from his Formosa 51 Toutazimut and had died. None, of course, experienced this loss more acutely than David Hitchcock, Phillip’s brother and sole shipmate.
Phillip’s death, again, points up the grave dangers inherent in any MOB situation. Phillip was working on deck, clipped on in a harness, when he fell overboard, and his brother David, though he soon perceived Phillip’s plight, was unable to get him back onboard singlehanded. The two men reportedly discussed the problem together as Phillip was dragged through the water alongside the boat. One attempt to use a sling recovery system failed, whereafter David put on a longer line on Phillip to keep him away from the hull while the boat was hove to and sails dropped. By the time David had stopped the boat and had his brother alongside again, however, Phillip was dead. After consulting with family and authorities in the U.K., David tethered the body to a liferaft with an active EPIRB onboard and set it adrift.
Soon after the tragedy three other ARC vessels, Tenacious, a square-rigged sail training ship, Lorrigay II, a Dix 65, and Mekeia, a Contest 43, rendezvoused with Toutazimut to lend assistance. Stephen Parkinson, from Lorrigay II, and Michael McCrink, from Tenacious, joined Toutazimut as crew and helped David finish the course to St. Lucia, where all three were greeted with some fanfare by the rest of the fleet on December 20. Phillip’s death was the first fatality in the 17-year history of the ARC.
The other major mishap this year occurred aboard F2, a Hunter Legend 450, that lost its rudder on December 1. With help from the crew of Tenacious, a jury rudder was mounted, but this too failed on December 9, whereupon F2’s crew, Peter and Zara Davies, together with their dog Elle, scuttled the boat and transferred to Lorrigay II, which arrived safely at St. Lucia on December 18.
OTHER TIDBITS: A total of 225 boats from 25 nations participated in ARC 2002; the three most well represented nations were Great Britain (84 boats), Germany (34 boats), and the U.S. (23 boats). For the second year running, Nautor Swan supplanted Oyster as the most well represented builder---20 Swans participated, versus 17 Oysters. The most well represented single design was the Hallberg Rassy 42 (6 boats entered).