After the tragic death on board, crew of the Clipper Race yacht Ichorcoal decide to continue racing


The crew of the Clipper 70 Ichorcoal, competing in the 2015/15 Clipper Rround the World Race, have decided to continue their race after the death of one of their crew during an accident in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Andrew Ashman, 49, was knocked unconscious by the mainsheet and failed to regain consciousness despite immediate medical assistance, the race organisers said in a statement.

The yacht was sailing from the UK to Brazil on the first leg of the round the world race and was about 120 miles off Portugal when the incident happened.

The crew diverted to Porto, Portugal, arriving on Sunday morning.

Here’s the official report on their decision as published on the event website:

The unanimous choice was made today during a team meeting which also included Skipper Darren Ladd, Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Race Director Justin Taylor and other members of the Clipper Race team who met the team into Porto last night and are supporting them during the unscheduled layover. They also observed the midday minute’s silence as supporters and the race fleet did the same.

Detailing the reason behind his team’s decision, Skipper Darren Ladd explains: “It’s partly out of respect for Andy that we want to carry on, and partly a way that as a team we can deal with what’s happened. I think the only way we can all deal with it is to jump back on the boat and get back sailing and do it with Andy in our hearts and minds at the same time.

“Andy was the best crew member you could wish to sail with. He has left an everlasting impact on us all which will never be forgotten. We are all going through a grieving process but I am incredibly proud of the whole team. We have had a chance to talk about it and we’ve all had our moments but the fact we have all talked individually as a group all helps to get it out there. We are all feeling and suffering in our own way, but we are getting over it as a team.

Adding he says: “The support we have all felt has been and continues to be massive. The first few hours after the accident I was in a daze. I didn’t know how I felt. I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with it. Slowly the emails of support from the other Skippers and Race Office team came in, then as we get within phone range, phone calls too from friends and family. I knew by the time we were tied up that there was no way I couldn’t carry on with the race. I knew we had to carry on.

Andrew was taken off the yacht on arrival at 2200 last night by local ambulance crew with the entire crew watching over him. A prayer was said over him by one of the crew as he left and everyone applauded him as he left the yacht. He is now at a local medical facility awaiting repatriation to the UK, which is hoped will be swift. His brother is coming to Porto tonight to see him and also meet the team to wish them well on their onward journey.

On the impact Andy had on his team, round the world crew member Louise Thomas says: “Andy was amazing. He was a big character, always bouncing around the boat. I don’t think any of us will ever forget his loud booming voice, his ever present smile and his desire to always help and make everyone feel happy. Something that will always stick in my mind is the fun and laughter he got out of everybody.

“There was never a dull moment with him. A big personality has gone from the boat but we will rally round and continue his love for sailing.”

Adding, Louise says: “I think it is the right decision for everyone to get back in the race. Everyone has gone away and spoken to their friends and family and seen the love and support that we all have from our friends, family and Clipper Race crew, and most importantly Andy’s friends and family and colleagues – everyone who loved him.

“The overwhelming support we have received makes everyone feel like we can do this for Andy. We can continue. We can make it to Rio in his honour. We will have safe sailing as he will still be with us.

Leg 1 and 2 crew member Bruce Rogerson says: “Things in life have a purpose. Andy died for this. It’s about transcending the tragedy of that experience now and moving forward with these wonderful people.

“One of the strongest things for us all is the team culture we have with Darren our skipper. The first thing you get when you walk onto our boat is love. That was our intention before we left – love, and that love will get us all through together.”

Leg 1 and 2 crew member Jamie Pearson also paid tribute to the powerful support the crew have felt from afar: “I think the whole crew has been completely overwhelmed through the amount of love and support that has been received through texts to the crew and Facebook postings, to us individually and to all of us as a whole team. We feel very, very loved.”

At the crew’s wishes, Sir Robin and the Race Office intend to get the team back out racing to Rio as soon as feasible though are currently cooperating with mandatory procedures with the Marine Accident Investigation Bureau, which is standard process in such situations.

Mik Moore, Head Training Skipper will sail with the team as a watchleader as a stand-in for Andrew as far as Rio.

Timescale updates on the team’s return to racing will be provided as soon as we have them.