Clipper must improve safety, says widow

Simon Speirs and his son, Mike Photo: MAIB Simon Speirs and his son, Mike Photo: MAIB

The family of an amateur sailor who died after being swept overboard during the 2017 Clipper Race has urged the organisers to implement the findings of a report into the incident, warning that more lives could be lost.

Simon Speirs died when he was washed overboard during a headsail change on board Clipper Venture’s yacht, CV30. A failing in his tether hook was identified and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) subsequently made a number of recommendations to Clipper Ventures to review and update its risk assessments and procedures.

Failed in so many ways

Mr Speirs’ family says that Clipper Ventures is ignoring these recommendations and is urging the company to make urgent safety improvements. “If you read Clipper’s material you’d think their number one concern was to keep people safe, but they have failed in so many ways to protect the lives of those who are sailing with them,” said Mr Speirs’ widow, Margaret.

All crews are assigned an identical 70ft yacht and professional skipper but the manning levels, ability and experience can vary. The advertising campaign for the race, creation of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston who was the first to solo-circumnavigate the world nonstop 50 years ago, attracts people with little or no sailing experience and just four weeks of training is given.

Two other lives lost

The MAIB had previously published reports into earlier incidents involving Clipper Ventures; in 2017 CV24 was lost and two fatal accidents occurred on board CV21 during the 2015/16 race. “Dad was the third British sailor to die in this race in three years,” said Mr Speirs’ son, Mike. “If they had implemented recommendations of two previous MAIB reports, my dad might still be with us today.”

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