The UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has today – Thursday 13 April 2017 – published its final report into two fatal accidents in the 2015-16 edition of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, the first in the event’s 20 year history.
The report highlights that the first fatality was a direct consequence of the crew member entering the cockpit danger zone, where they were struck by the mainsheet on the boom when the boat gybed.
The second fatality was the consequence of the crew member not clipping on when on deck, which is mandatory on Clipper Race yachts, and was subsequently washed overboard in adverse weather at night. The reasons why these individuals failed to follow their basic training in these incidents will remain unknown and theories are purely speculative.
The publication of the MAIB report has been welcomed by Clipper Race Founder and Chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who comments: “The MAIB has an important role in ensuring that the valuable learnings from accidents are shared with the industry to help improve safety. These two fatalities, resulting from two very different incidents, were the first in our long history and are tragic, especially as they were caused primarily through momentary lapses in applying basic safety training.”
“The report acknowledges that we have been proactive to mitigate the risks concerned even further. Safety has been our highest priority since the Clipper Race was established in 1996, amassing huge experience through ten biennial editions, 84 yacht circumnavigations (a cumulative four million nautical miles) with nearly 5000 crew undergoing extensive training. Manning arrangements and shore-based management have been developed to ensure skippers are adequately supported and these will continue to be regularly reviewed.”
The Clipper Race has worked closely with the MCA for many years in developing its safety standards and procedures, and has helped develop MOB and recovery training with them and the MAIB prior to these incidents, which has included the assessment of AIS (Automatic Identification System) beacons.
Clipper Race training is designed to ensure that amateur crew can handle the specific demands of large yacht ocean racing and even novices emerge as competent sailors. Training also includes an independently provided sea survival course recognised by the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) and World Sailing, even though it is not a requirement.
ANDREW ASHMAN (49) – A paramedic from Orpington, Kent, was participating in three legs of the Clipper 2015-16 Race.
The incident occurred on 4 September 2015, a few days into the first stage of the race from London to Rio de Janeiro in the North Atlantic approximately 120 nautical miles west of Porto, on the Portuguese coast. Andrew Ashman, an experienced sailor who had completed the Clipper Race’s mandatory four part, four week, intensive training, stepped over the main sheet traveller, a high obstruction in the danger zone between two prominent winches, when he was hit by the mainsheet on the boom. He sustained a high impact neck injury that is believed to have killed him instantly. This is a high-risk area taught to the crew during training because of the danger of being hit by the boom.
There are a number of scenarios which may cause this to happen. In this instance the boat performed an accidental double gybe (turn) resulting in the failure of a strop holding a ‘foreguy/ preventor’ line. The report acknowledges that it is probably not feasible to design a preventer system that, for yachts of the size used by the Clipper Race, will not fail under any circumstances; indeed, it could be more dangerous if it did not.
However, MAIB has recommended that the Royal Yachting Association, World Sailing and British Marine work together to provide advice on the use and limitations of different rope types and for the manufacturers in this instance to review the information provided on their data sheets and to work with other rope producers to share any limitations with the marine sector for more accurate calculation of their strength and breaking strains.
SARAH YOUNG (40) – A company owner from London was participating in the full circumnavigation of the Clipper 2015-16 Race.
The incident happened on 1 April 2016, day 12 of the North Pacific leg from Qingdao in China to Seattle on the west coast of the US, at 39 North, 160 East, approaching the International Date Line. Round-the-world crew member Sarah Young was on deck at night during a storm with wind speeds over 40 knots, gusting over 60 knots, following the reduction of sail area to respond to the adverse conditions, when a wave broke over the deck causing her to lose her footing ending up next to the guardrail when a second wave washed her overboard as she was not connected to the boat by her safety tether.
The conditions were horrendous and by the time Sarah was located via her AIS beacon and recovered from the heavy seas she had sadly perished. Due to the long distance from landfall Sarah was buried at sea once the sea conditions had calmed sufficiently.
The full report is published on the MAIB web site here: https://www.gov.uk/maib-