Simon Speirs was assisting with a head sail change when he was washed overboard from Clipper Race yacht, GREAT Britain, in the Southern Ocean


A 60-year-old crewmember on board the Clipper Race yacht, GREAT Britain, has died after he was washed overboard in the Southern Ocean.

Simon Speirs, who was from Bristol, was assisting with a headsail change in 20 knot winds at 1414 local time today (18 November) when the incident happened.

He was recovered, but despite efforts to revive him, he was pronounced dead.

An investigation is now underway.

Clipper Race organisers have release the following statement:

‘Clipper Ventures is extremely saddened today 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 at approximately 0814UTC (1414 local time) 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 at 0925UTC. 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, Australia. The yacht, which was in sixth place, currently has approximately 1,500 miles left to its destination.

A Clipper Race yacht

Clipper yacht, GREAT Britain. Credit: onEdition

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 licence.

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 programme 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.

Simon’s next of kin have been informed and our deepest thoughts are with his family and all those who knew him.

The yacht is currently making best speed to Fremantle, Australia and we’ll provide further updates as we have them,’ concluded the statement.

More below…

The last edition of the Clipper Round the World Race saw two fatalities – the first in the 21 year history of the race.

Both deaths happened aboard the 70-foot CV21, IchorCoal.

Andrew Ashman, 49, died when he was accidentally struck by the boom.

The incident happened on 4 September, 2015. At the time, IchorCoal was 122 nautical miles west of Porto, Portugal, on passage to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

On 1 April 2016, Sarah Young, who was not clipped on, died after she was washed overboard from the yacht.

She was recovered after one hour and 20 minutes in the water, but never regained consciousness.

The subsequent report into the two deaths by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) acknowledged that Clipper Race organisers had been proactive in mitigating the risks.

Read the MAIB report here

But, it recommended that Clipper Ventures review and modify its onboard manning policy and shore-based management procedures.