Race founder 'frustrated' that ignoring safety training cost sailor her life


The founder of the Clipper Race has said he is "frustrated" that a sailor killed when she was swept into the sea was not tethered to her yacht, adding "it's cost her her life". 

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston insisted that safety was "drummed into" sailors during intense training before they took part in the round-the-world yacht challenge.

He said everyone involved in the race was in "shock" following the death of Sarah Young, who was washed overboard in the Pacific while sailing from China to Seattle on board the yacht IchorCoal.

Asked about individuals being clipped to the yacht, he said it was the first time a sailor in the race's history had died after going overboard.

"We emphasise that this is about tethering on all the time, regardless, particularly when the weather is difficult as indeed it was on this occasion," Sir Robin told the BBC.

"It's a restriction but, I mean, people are used to it. The only person who can tell us why she wasn't tethered is Sarah herself and of course she never will.

"We just don't know. We are all frustrated she wasn't tethered on - terribly sad we've lost her obviously, but just frustrated. Just not clipping on takes about three seconds and it's cost her her life."

Sir Robin said it took the crew around an hour to find her in the dark after she was "flung" through the guard rail by the second of two large waves.

He told the broadcaster: "And so then you've got the problem of trying to find her - of course it's night-time, 6ft waves, strong winds - not the easiest of tasks.

"And it took them about an hour to get back to her and I regret to say that by the time they did she was dead."

Her death was only the second in the race's 20-year history. Tragically the other sailor to die, fellow Briton Andrew Ashman, was a crew member on board the same boat in the same edition of the biennial race. 

Despite being amateurs, both were experienced sailors and Sir Robin, who in 1969 became the first person to sail solo and non-stop around the world, said that safety was paramount during their training.

Ms Young was one of the sailors taking part in the entire round-the-world challenge and had already sailed more than halfway round the world and covered 20,000 nautical miles before setting off for the latest leg of the race on March 21.

She had pulled out of part of the challenge trip after her mother died, organisers said.

Earlier, Sir Robin described her as a "very popular member of the crew, a very easy person to like".

He said: "One of the things we really focus on in Clipper with the four weeks' training is safety - that is the primary consideration, the one thing we drum into all crew.

"Taking the safety precautions, we remind them of the man overboard procedures, they practise it and practise it so they get good at it, but the fact of the matter is people have a harness and don't clip on they are endangering themselves, and I am afraid that is what has happened on this occasion.

"You can tell them to harness on, and we do the whole time, but if they haven't done it I'm afraid this is what can happen."

The crew will now continue on their journey to Seattle, and Sir Robin said the voyage would help them deal with their loss together.

He said: "It gives them a focus, gives them something to deal with, there is the security of the boat and each other's company.

"Do I think they will race very hard? No, I suspect they won't. I should think they are in shock and will want to take it easy for a bit and, I have to say, I think if I was in their position I would do the same."