Simon Speirs: Yacht defects 'a factor in sailor's death'

Simon Speirs Image copyright Clipper
Image caption Simon Speirs fell as crew attempted to lower a sail in rough conditions in November 2017

Defects with a vessel that led to crew fatigue and low morale were a factor in the death of a sailor during a round-the-world yacht race, a report found.

Simon Speirs fell overboard during the Clipper Round the World Race from South Africa to Australia.

He fell as the crew attempted to lower a sail in rough conditions in November 2017, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said.

It has made a series of recommendations to Clipper Ventures.

The 60-year-old, from Bristol, was dragged alongside the Clipper 70 yacht before his safety tether clip broke and he became separated from the vessel, the (MAIB)'s report said.

When he was recovered from the water just over half an hour later, he could not be revived by the medical team on board.

Mr Speirs had previously raised concerns with the Clipper Ventures' race director that crews were carrying out work that could have been undertaken prior to the season.

The retired solicitor, who was regarded as "very safety conscious" by his crew, was not wearing a dry suit and was clipped on with his long tether rather than a short one when he fell.

The MAIB report said these actions were "not reflective of his normal behaviour and perhaps were contributed to by fatigue".

A spokeswoman said the organisers were "very saddened" at the death of Mr Speirs.

It said it has followed previous safety recommendations from the MAIB and, since the death, has appointed a qualified mate to help the skipper on each yacht and fitted a downhall to help crews lower headsails in strong winds.

Image copyright onEdition

The report said: "The cumulative effect of the defects was to create further work for the crew, contributing to their fatigue, lowering morale and detracting from training and gaining sailing experience."

It said some of the defects could have been considered "major damage" or affecting the "seaworthiness" of the vessel, and should have been reported to the certifying authority, IIMS, by Clipper Ventures.

The MAIB is recommending Clipper Ventures review yacht maintenance and repair processes, and its operating procedures for crews working at the front of the boat, for lowering sails in rough weather and for man overboard emergencies.

Mr Speirs' son Mike has urged race organisers to urgently implement the recommendations to prevent further deaths, after his father was the third fatality in the 21-year history of the race.

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