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Yacht designer Frans Maas dies after yacht capsizes during Light Vessel Race in Belgium

Dutch yacht designer Frans Maas has been named as one of two sailors who died when his yacht capsized during the Genisol Light Vessel Race off Ostend. His friend Freddy Franssens also died, while a third sailor is still missing.

Three surviving crew, including Andréas Zwanenburg, the grandson of Maas, and crewmembers Robert Tan and Jan Toussein were found on the upturned hull of the yacht after organisers became concerned when the boat failed to return. The boat’s keel was missing.

All three crew were suffering from hypothermia, and were taken to hospital for treatment. Media reports state that they were clinging to the hull for some six hours before they were spotted by a passing dredger. The sixth crewmember Hannes Goegebeur is still missing, with the search now called off by rescue authorities.

The incident happened on 1st July off Ostend, during the Genisol Light Vessel Race, which starts and finishes in Zeebrugge and takes place largely at night. The Maritime and Rescue Coordination Centre in Belgium has told local media that it received no distress call from Capella prior to it capsizing. The bodies of Maas and Franssens were recovered 10nm offshore.

According to Yachting and Boating World, there was a breeze of 22 to 27 knots and gusting of 32 knots. The waves were reportedly described by a fellow competitor to be two-metres high.

According to organisers at the Royal Belgium Sailing Club (RBSC) Capella was one of 19 boats taking place in the race. It said that it had been using various channels throughout the day to reach the crew when they failed to return at 12pm, and had checked in with ports along the route before contacting the authorities. 

In a statement, the RBSC said, “There was quite a lot of wind, but the conditions were certainly not exceptional. The boat’s crew were probably the most experienced racers from our region, which have been in much tougher conditions race hazards. RBSC regrets this incident deeply. It expresses primarily its condolences to the relatives of the two deceased and hopes that the missing person can be found alive.” 

The wreck of Capella has now been towed to Ostend for inspection, and an investigation launched by the Belgian authorities into the cause of the accident.

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