Simon Speirs, a crewmember on the Clipper Round the World Race yacht Great Britain, has died after going overboard during a headsail change in rough conditions


A crewmember from Clipper Round the World Race yacht Great Britain has died after going overboard.

Simon Speirs, 60, a retired property solicitor from Bristol went overboard while on the foredeck helping change the yacht’s No 3 yankee headsail. The yacht was in the Southern Indian Ocean on the sixth day of the leg between South Africa and Australia, and was racing in rough conditions and winds gusting to 40 knots.

According to a report from organising company Clipper Ventures, Speirs was clipped on with a lifeline tether but became separated from the yacht. He was located and successfully recovered on board 36 minutes later but was unable to be resuscitated.

A statement by Clipper Ventures reads:

‘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 statement continues:

‘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, Simon was a highly experienced sailor with over 40 years dinghy experience and [had] 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.

‘The yacht is currently making best speed to Fremantle, Australia.’

This Clipper Round the World has had several emergencies since starting in July. On the first leg, the skipper of entry Greenings suffered a serious hand injury and had to be medevaced for treatment.

Earlier on this leg, the same yacht ran aground on the coast of South Africa and was wrecked on a reef.

On the last race in 2016, Sarah Young, 40, died after falling overboard from the yacht Qingdao during the race leg from China to Seattle. She was washed overboard while not clipped on and although recovered she could not be resuscitated.

A Marine Accident Investigation Branch investigation was launched following the fatality and found the cause was of Ms Young not being clipped on, but it made several recommendations and Clipper Ventures later increased MOB drills.

An official investigation into the circumstances of the death of Simon Speirs is likely to follow.