Round the World Yacht Race Claims Another Victim

Crew member on one of the yachts swept overboard, buried at sea
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2017 2:47 PM CST
Round the World Yacht Race Claims Another Victim
Boats moored at Albert Docks, Liverpool, England, Aug. 17, 2017, ahead of the start of the Clipper Round the World yacht race.   (Clint Hughes/PA via AP)

A 60-year-old with more than four decades of experience as a sailor was killed during the UK's Clipper Round the World yacht race Saturday. Simon Speirs, a crew member on the Great Britain yacht since the race began on Aug. 20, was helping to change its sails amid gale-force winds when he was swept overboard. The yacht, which was in sixth place at the time, was in the Southern Ocean between South Africa and Australia on day 18 of the third race in the 13-stage competition, the Guardian reports. Speirs was wearing a life jacket and was clipped on with a safety tether but somehow became separated. He was pulled back on board 36 minutes later and given CPR but was pronounced dead. His death is the third in the race's 21-year history, the BBC reports. Just days before Speirs' death, he wrote in a blog that he "never had any doubts" about his safety, the Telegraph reports.

Race co-founder Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said something went wrong with a new type of tether the race was using. "Whether it is a type failure or a one-off failure—we won’t know that until it has been examined," he said. Competitors have since been asked to use both clips on their tethers as an additional safety feature. Speirs was given a burial at sea Sunday, race organizers said in a statement. "As requested by Simon’s family, who were fully aware and came together to follow it at the same time back home, it was a Christian service, and the rest of the Clipper Race fleet also joined them in solidarity as it was carried out," the statement said. The Great Britain yacht is currently around 1,500 miles off Fremantle, Australia; when it reaches Fremantle, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch will meet it as part of its investigation into the incident. (More accidental death stories.)

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