Volvo Ocean Race: Sailor Lost at Sea in Southern Ocean

John Fisher (Image courtesy Volvo Ocean Race)

By The Maritime Executive 2018-03-27 14:04:00

On Tuesday, the organizers of Volvo Ocean Race announced that sailor John Fisher of Team Sun Hung Kai is presumed lost at sea. 

"This is heart-breaking for all of us," said race president Richard Brisius in a statement. "As sailors and race organisers losing a crew member at sea is a tragedy we don't ever want to contemplate. We are devastated and our thoughts are with John's family, friends and teammates."

At 1300 UTC on Monday, Team Sun Hung Kai informed race organizers that crewmember John Fisher, 47, had gone overboard from the racing yacht Scallywag during a transit of the Southern Ocean. The race control center contacted the responsible MRCC, which diverted the nearest available ship to assist. However, the accident occurred in some 1,000 miles west of Cape Horn, and the motor vessel was 400 nm away from the Scallywag at the time of the incident. The other yachts in the race are already 200 miles downwind in storm force conditions, rendering them unable to participate in a search. 

Despite winds of 35 knots and foul conditions, Scallywag conducted a search for several hours but did not locate Fisher. He was wearing survival gear at the time he went over, but given the cold water and the sea state on scene, Brisius said, it is presumed that Fisher has been lost at sea. 

"We are sure that there will be many questions about how one of our sailors was lost overboard yesterday," said Brisius. "We can address those after the team has been fully debriefed."

Meanwhile the crew of the Scallywag remain in a tough position, with deteriorating weather conditions and a severe forecast for Tuesday. The storm has forced the team to depart the area.

"[Skipper David Witt] and the Scallywag crew have been battling extremely treacherous conditions in the Southern Ocean and this tragedy is heart breaking," said yacht owner Lee Seng Huang in a statement. "The crew did everything they could to recover John, leading an extensive search and rescue operation in stormy conditions. Now, with the forecast worsening and night falling, the team has made the difficult decision to head for landfall, 1,200 nautical miles away in South America."

The Volvo Ocean Race is a 45,000 nm race around the world, and the 2018 race was Fisher's first time participating in the event. He was an experienced sailor and a veteran of the Sydney-Hobart race. Lee said that Fisher was a ":great and experienced sailor, the finest human being and a true Scallywag."

Scallywag is a 100-foot super-maxi racing yacht sponsored by Sun Hung Kai & Co. She is the first-ever entrant from Hong Kong in the Volvo Ocean Race.