The UK's Marine Accident Investigation Branch has released its findings into two fatal accidents aboard the Clipper Race yacht CV21, IchorCoal, during the 2015/2016 Clipper Round the World Race
The damage of consecutive accidental gybes
The wind had now increased and was gusting up to 30 knots at times. ‘Cloud cover had also increased, creating a dark night, making it more difficult for the helmsman to see the shape and set of the mainsail,’ the report states.
‘The sea state had also worsened and the helmsman found it increasingly difficult to control the vessel’s head, which was veering up to 50° off course at times.
‘By 2345, the weather conditions were such that Andrew decided to reef the mainsail.’ After gaining approval from the skipper below to do so, ‘Andrew moved forward into the area known to the crew as the danger zone and stepped over the mainsheet traveller.
‘Still tethered to the same D-ring, Andrew moved towards the aft winch grinder and called for his watch to gather for a briefing on the reefing evolution.’
‘At 2356:30, without warning, the yacht suddenly gybed. The boom swung rapidly across the cockpit from port to starboard and the yacht heeled violently to starboard.
‘The helmsman was unable to regain control of the yacht’s heading before a second gybe returned the boom back to port and the yacht onto a broad starboard reach again.’ The report notes that a crew member saw that the boom preventer was flying free.
‘The helmsman saw Andrew lying motionless on the cockpit deck and alerted his crew mates by shouting “man down!”’
A crew member managed to centre the traveller car and helped regain control of the mainsheet and boom. ‘The violent motion of the yacht during the gybes had already alerted the skipper that all was not well. On hearing the news, the skipper, who was already donning his oilskins, immediately made his way up onto deck, taking a head torch with him.’
Andrew Ashman was lying at a slight angle to the cockpit side coaming and had no pulse. ‘The skipper used his head torch to shine a light in Andrew’s eyes, but there was no response. As the skipper could not see any sign of obvious injury, he concluded that Andrew had suffered a major trauma.’
The position of Andrew Ashman’s head abaft the traveller prevented the crew from commencing CPR. The tether had to be cut, his neck supported and his body moved clear of the traveller before they could begin CPR, the report notes.
This then continued for more than 50 minutes until Praxes Medical Group, who had been contacted by satellite phone, advised them to stop CPR when it was clear that Andrew Ashman was not responding.
‘The skipper then notified the Clipper race office of the accident by satellite telephone and CV21 was steered towards Porto, Portugal, arriving the following evening.’