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Man overboard fatality from UK-registered yacht CV30. On 18 November 2017, Simon Speirs fell overboard from the foredeck of the Clipper round the world racing yacht CV30 when approximately 1500nm west of Fremantle, Australia. Simon was initially secured to the yacht, but before he could be recovered his safety tetherhook distorted and suddenly released. He was recovered, with no signs of life, from thewater by the crew and could not be resuscitated.

At the time of the accident the skipper was on the helm and was sailing CV30 downwind, in very rough seas, to facilitate the lowering of the yankee 3 headsail. Five crew, including Simon, all of whom were secured to the yacht by their tethers, were on the foredeck to haul down and secure the yankee 3. When the sail was ¾ down a large wave on the port quarter caused CV30 to slew to starboard and then to port, leading the yacht to accidentally gybe. The bowman fell overboard but was then able to haul himself back on board. Shortly afterwards, Simon Speirs fell overboard from his position on the starboard side between the forestays.

The skipper tacked CV30 to place Simon on the high side of the yacht, but he was limited in his ability to slow the yacht due to damage sustained during the accidental gybe. The bowman was unable to reach Simon, who was being dragged along in the water and buffeted against the yacht’s starboard side. A halyard was passed to him, but as he struggled to secure it to his lifejacket his tether hook distorted and released. The yacht’s crew immediately initiated the man overboard (MOB) recovery procedure. In the prevailing wind and sea conditions, and without full control of the sails, the skipper managed to manoeuvre CV30 alongside Simon, who appeared to be unconscious, 32 minutes later, but following his recovery he was unable to be resuscitated.

The MAIB investigation concluded that the combined effect of Simon’s tether length and the hooking point location resulted in him being dragged alongside the yacht, preventing his recovery. It also concluded that Simon’s tether hook became caught under the starboard forward mooring cleat, resulting in the hook being loaded laterally, distorting and releasing.On 9 January 2018, the MAIB issued Safety Bulletin 1/2018 regarding the dangers of lateral loading of tether hooks, and recommended that the method used to anchor the end ofthe tether to the yacht should be arranged to ensure that the tether hook cannot become entangled with deck fittings or other equipment. Further recommendations are made inrespect of reviewing and amending international standards for tethers and jackstays.

In view of this and previous MOB accidents, Clipper Ventures plc has been recommended to further review and, as appropriate, modify its risk assessments and standard operating procedures with particular regard to foredeck operations, reducing sail in rough weather and methods for recovery of both tethered and untethered MOBs. This must take account of any safety management guidance and direction provided by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in response to MAIB Recommendation 2018/116 following the grounding and loss of CV24. Clipper Ventures plc has also been recommended to review and amend Clipper 70 yacht maintenance and repair processes to prevent potential additional workload falling on crew, contributing to fatigue and affecting their performance.

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