Clipper Race drama

Clipper Race yacht Hull& Humber has been involved in a dramatic rescue of a crew member in the South Atlantic 1,400 miles from Cape Town.

Arthur Bowers, 51, was climbing towards the main companionway at the end of his watch when the boat was hit by a big wave, knocking him sideways, down the deck and through the guard wires into the water. He was wearing his lifejacket which automatically inflated when he entered the water and had just unclipped his safety line to allow him to descend the steps into the saloon.


The crew, who carry out endless man overboard drills during their pre-race Clipper Training, immediately put theory into practice and, in an excellent display of seamanship, recovered Arthur and had him safely back on board within 17 minutes.


The incident happened at 1345 GMT during daylight hours in the South Atlantic where the waves were six to eight metres high. In winds of 25 to 30 knots Hull & Humber was sailing with the Yankee 3 headsail, staysail and three reefs in the mainsail. The crew reacted quickly, according to Hull & Humber‘s skipper, Piers Dudin, 31. The Salisbury-based skipper was at the chart table at the time and immediately pressed the man overboard button on the GPS system to mark on the chart the position at which Arthur entered the water.


Piers said, “Bex (Rebecca Mayman, 19) was pointing at Arthur’s position. After heaving to, we released the preventer line and centred the main and dropped the Yankee 3 and staysail. We started the engine and motored back upwind to him – at this time we were about 150 metres away.


“Jeremy (Reed, 54) put on the harness while the rest of the watch prepared the halyard to allow him to be lowered over the side to reach Arthur. During this time we circled Arthur twice and on the third lap came up close to him on the starboard side. We didn’t reach him on the first attempt.


“I stationed Hull & Humber with Jeremy low in the water next to Arthur. On the fourth lap we lowered Jeremy to him and he attached a staysail halyard to Arthur’s lifejacket and both were hauled up. Arthur held onto the helistrop and supported himself as he was hoisted.


“He walked himself back to the cockpit and walked below to get out of his wet gear. Charlie (Charlotte Mulliner, 21) had prepared a sleeping bag for him in the saloon.”


As soon as he was back on board he was checked for signs of hypothermia and for shock and has no other injuries. Piers, in common with every ocean going commercial skipper including those in charge of tankers and cruise ships, has the Marine Coastguard Agency (MCA)’s certificate of Proficiency for Persons in Charge of Medical Care on Board Ships. In addition he has the support of medical professionals in the crews of the other Clipper yachts and via the UK’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Falmouth if required. He is continuing to monitor Arthur’s condition and, as a precaution, he is monitoring the rest of the crew for symptoms of shock.


Piers rang the Race Office at 1413 GMT to report the incident and Arthur’s safe recovery and his next of kin have been told.


Race Director Joff Bailey says, “Man overboard manoeuvres are practised daily in training to cover this situation. That Piers and his crew reacted so quickly and efficiently is a testament to the high standards set during the pre-race Clipper Training which has helped them develop their skills as ocean racing yachtsmen and women.”

Hull & Humber was in second place in Race 3 of the Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Cape Town, South Africa, when the incident happened. They returned to the position at which they started their engine and have now resumed racing – and Arthur can’t wait to get back up on deck and take the helm. The team has dropped down to third place, 17 miles behind the leaders, Cork, Ireland.


The first boats are expected at Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town on approximately 14 November.