The MAIB has published its initial report into the drowning of Simon Speirs in November 2017 while taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Mr Speirs was on board the yacht GREAT Britain (CV30) during the third leg of the race when he fell overboard during a headsail change.

He was attached to the yacht by his safety harness tether however the hook at the end of the tether that was clipped to a jack-line, deformed and released resulting in him becoming separated from the yacht.

He was recovered unconscious onto the yacht however other crew members were not able to resuscitate him.

Three-point webbing tether

The MAIB’s initial findings state Mr Speirs was using a three-point webbing tether attached to the integral harness of his lifejacket that allowed him to clip on to the yacht with a short or long tether.

The investigation found the hook on the end of Mr Speirs’ tether had become caught under a deck cleat resulting in a lateral loading that was sufficient to cause the hook to distort and release.

Although the harness tether complied with international safety standards, the standard contains detailed testing requirements that assume the tether and its hooks will be loaded longitudinally rather than laterally.

Loaded longitudinally

When loaded longitudinally, the tether can withstand a load of more than one tonne. However, when loaded laterally a tether hook will deform at much less load.

“It is important that tether hooks remain clear of obstructions and are free to rotate to align the load longitudinally,” stated the MAIB report.

“To prevent the strength of a safety harness tether becoming compromised in-service due to lateral loading on the tether hook, the method used to anchor the end of the tether to the vessel should be arranged to ensure that the tether hook cannot become entangled with deck fittings or other equipment.”

The MAIB says this issue is just one of several potential factors that contributed to Mr Speirs’ death.

The investigation is continuing.