Clipper Race: Quiet Contemplation
Published on November 19th, 2017
(November 19, 2017; Day 19) – Racing has taken a back seat over the past 24 hours for the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race fleet following the tragedy on board one of the yachts participating in the regatta. Race officials were extremely saddened to report the fatality of Simon Speirs, a crew member on board CV30, (GREAT Britain).
Simon, 60, from Bristol, UK, was on the foredeck assisting with a headsail change from Yankee 3 when he was washed overboard. Although he was clipped on with his safety tether, he became separated from the yacht in the Southern Ocean in a rough sea state, in 20 knots of wind, gusting 40.
The team’s man overboard recovery training kicked into immediate effect and despite the rough conditions, Simon was recovered back on board by the Skipper and crew within 36 minutes, at which point CPR was immediately administered by three medically trained crew, which included a GP. However Simon sadly never regained consciousness and was pronounced deceased. The cause of death is unconfirmed at this time but thought to be by drowning.
All other crew are reported safe and are being supported remotely by the Race Office.
The incident occurred on Day 18 in Race 3 of the 13 stage Clipper Race. The fleet was racing from South Africa to Australia. The yacht, which was in sixth place, currently has approximately 1,500 miles left to its destination.
At the time of the incident, Simon was clipped on, wearing his lifejacket, which included an AIS beacon, as well as approved waterproof ocean oilskins. A full investigation will now be carried out, as is standard practice, into the full details of the incident, including the reasons his safety tether did not keep him on board, in cooperation with the appropriate authorities.
A member of the crew since Race Start in the UK on August 20, 2017, Simon was a highly experienced sailor with over 40 years dinghy experience and a Coastal Skipper license.
He also successfully completed the Clipper Race Coxswain Certificate (CRCC) in February this year in anticipation of his challenge. Designed in collaboration with the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA), and the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) specifically for the Clipper Race, this involved an intensive two-week course, in addition to the four weeks of compulsory training that all Clipper Race crew must complete which concentrates on safety at sea.
All Clipper Race crew, regardless of previous sailing experience, complete a compulsory and intensive four-week training program before joining the race which covers all aspects of safety at sea, including repeated man overboard training drills, which are also repeated in race stopovers.
Following medical advice and all considerations, Simon Speirs was given a sea burial at today during a service on board CV30 held by his Skipper Andy Burns and crew, supported by the Clipper Race office. As requested by Simon’s family, who were fully aware and came together to follow it at the same time back home, it was a Christian service, and the rest of the Clipper Race fleet also joined them in solidarity as it was carried out.
Speaking on the loss of round the world crew member Simon Speirs, Sanya Serenity Coast Skipper Wendy Tuck said: “The mood on board Sanya Serenity Coast, as I imagine it will be across the whole fleet, is somber with a lot of quiet reflection going on.
“To let my crew know of the terrible accident on board CV30 is the hardest thing to do at sea. We are all shocked and terribly saddened by the incident. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Andy Burns and his crew on board, also to all of Simon’s friends and loved ones.”
HotelPlanner.com Skipper, Conall Morrison, said: “We prepared some readings and held a moment’s silence together as a crew on deck at the same time as the service. Our thoughts and prayers are with the GREAT Britain team. Three of our current crew will be joining the team in Fremantle and those that knew Simon Speirs on board talk of what a gentle giant he was.”
Across the fleet, the sky appears to be a relatively clear on this day of reflection and the wind will gradually veer and continue easing. Sanya Serenity Coast continues to lead the fleet with just over 1,000 nautical miles to go to Fremantle and has completed the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint – results will be announced after all teams have done so.
PSP Logistics has also completed the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint but Skipper Matt Mitchell’s thoughts are very much with Simon Speirs’ family and friends saying: “The wonderful thing about the Clipper Race is that in times of trial, as well as times of celebration, there are no longer individual teams but one big family of people, all pulling together as a group. At this most trying of times the solidarity of the Clipper Race family will be there to offer any and all support that is needed.”
Visit Seattle Skipper, Nikki Henderson, added: “I’m not sure if it is much respite to know he was doing what he loved – this ocean must be one of the most magical, and yet treacherous places in the world.”
Qingdao entered Stealth Mode yesterday at 1800 UTC, as planned, and Skipper Chris Kobusch reports: “Last night saw lots of rain squalls coming through, in which the wind speeds exceeded 45 knots at times. With the squalls came some of the biggest seas we had experienced so far.
“Our deep thoughts are with his family and Andy Burns and his team. We wish you a safe and fast passage to Fremantle and we will be there to support you.”
Meanwhile, Garmin Skipper Gaëtan Thomas has also been sending words of support while continuing to look after crew member, Erik Hellstrom, who is dealing with a serious abdominal condition. An aircraft medical supplies drop was successfully carried out by the Royal Australian Air Force and Gaëtan reports: “Erik is 24 hours under supervision. We are doing everything we can for him.”
The team is continuing to prepare for a medevac and further updates will be provided on the Clipper Race website.
• Greenings ran aground just hours after the start on October 31 of the third leg from Cape Town, South Africa to Fremantle, Australia. The crew was safely evacuated but damage to the boat was deemed too extensive for it to continue in the 2017-18 edition. Updates here.
• HotelPlanner.com medevaced an injured crew member in Port Elizabeth and brought aboard six new honorary HotelPlanner.com crew members, formally of team Greenings, on board for Race 3 as it continues the race to Fremantle.
The third stage of the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race, officially known as Race 3: The Dell Latitude Rugged Race, got underway October 31 for the 12 teams from Cape Town for the 4,754 nm Southern Ocean sleigh ride towards Fremantle, Australia. Teams are expected to finish between November 21 and 25.
Background: Held biennially, the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race got underway August 20 for the fleet of twelve identical Tony Castro designed Clipper 70s. The 40,000nm course is divided into 13 individual races with the team having the best cumulative score winning the Clipper Race Trophy. Each team is led by a professional skipper with an all-amateur crew that signs up for one, some, or all the races. The 2017-18 race, expected to take 11 months, has attracted 712 people representing 41 nationalities, making it the largest to date.
Source: Clipper Round the World Yacht Race