Clipper Round the World Race skippers must get more support, report finds


The company behind the Clipper Round the World Race must do more to ensure yacht skippers are effectively supported, a report has found after two people died during the competition.

Andrew Ashman, 49, from Kent, suffered a fatal neck injury in September 2015 when the preventer line broke releasing the boom, which moved across the cockpit when the vessel performed two accidental and uncontrolled gybes.

His death was the first in the race's 20-year history.

Mr Ashman's brother, Keith, said he did not blame the organisers for the paramedic's death, and that his brother had "put himself in the wrong place".

Sarah Young, 40, from London, died after being washed off the deck of the IchorCoal during the Pacific leg of the race last April.

She had not clipped on her tether when a wave broke over the deck and caused her to lose her footing. Another wave washed her overboard.

Ms Young's body was recovered by the crew and buried at sea.

Following the fatalities, Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) released a report into the investigations of the accidents.

It recommended that the Clipper Race should review and modify its onboard manning policy and shore-based management procedures so Clipper yacht skippers are effectively supported and, where appropriate, challenged to ensure that safe working practices are maintained continuously on board.

Other recommendations included that it should complete its review of the risks associated with a Clipper yacht man overboard and recovery, and its development of appropriate control measures to reduce those risks to as low as reasonably practicable.

Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, Captain Steve Clinch, said: "The Clipper Round the World Race is an adventurous activity; operating with largely amateur and some novice crews, the yachts are often required to operate in some of the most hostile weather and sea conditions on earth.

"However, in such circumstances, there is a practical limit to how the safety of crews can be monitored and therefore, much reliance is placed on the expertise and judgement of each boat's skipper to ensure a strong safety culture is followed by everyone on board. This places a huge responsibility on one person, given the enduring challenges presented during the Clipper Round the World Race

"While acknowledging that Clipper Ventures Plc has already done much to address the safety issues identified during the MAIB's investigations, I am nonetheless recommending that the company does even more to review and modify its yacht-manning policy and shore-based management procedures so that Clipper yacht skippers are effectively supported and, where appropriate, challenged to ensure safe working practices are always adhered to on board."

Clipper Race Founder and Chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, said: "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 10 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.

"We have developed our current manning levels and qualifications in conjunction with the MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency), operating to MCA standards as a minimum and often well in excess.

"We frequently implement and develop safety procedures where there is no actual requirement, they are under constant review as a matter of course and we will continue to do so in light of the report's recommendations."