Wellington - A missing British round-the-world sailor
unclipped his safety tether before a swinging boom knocked him into the
churning Southern Ocean, likely rendering him "unconscious before he hit
the water," his crew-mates revealed on Thursday.
John Fisher is presumed dead after going missing on Monday
while on watch aboard the yacht SHK/Scallywag in the Volvo Ocean Race some 2 250
kilometres west of Cape Horn on the tip of South America.
He was wearing survival gear but a desperate search by
Scallywag failed to find him and the yacht was forced to head for port as
weather conditions deteriorated.
Volvo Ocean Race organisers have promised an inquiry into
the tragedy and the crew released a timeline early on Thursday detailing what
It revealed Fisher, 47, was on his way to untangle a sail at
the front of the yacht when he was hit by a boom, sending him into the sea and
probably knocking him unconscious.
"At the time, he was moving forward to tidy up the FR0
sheet and had therefore unclipped his tether," the timeline posted on the
race's website said.
"As the mainsail swung across the boat in the gybe, the
mainsheet system caught John and knocked him off the boat.
"The crew on board believe John was unconscious from
the blow before he hit the water."
Scallywag team manager Tim Newton said he had spoken to
skipper David Witt as the yacht headed for Chile and the entire team was
"This is the worst situation you can imagine happening
to your team," Newton said.
"We are absolutely heartbroken for John's family and
friends. I know for David, he has lost his best friend. It's devastating."
The race has already been marred by tragedy, when Vestas
11th Hour Racing collided with a trawler on its way to Hong Kong, killing a
The fleet set off from Auckland on March 18 on the toughest
stretch of the around-the-world epic.
The 14,075 kilometre leg takes the yachts across
inhospitable waters from New Zealand to Cape Horn and then up South America's
eastern coast to the Brazilian city of Itajai.
As Scallywag heads for Chile, the six other yachts in the
fleet were approaching Cape Horn, with Team Brunel leading the way.
It was followed by Vestas 11th Hour Racing, MAPFRE and
Dongfeng Race Team in a tight group, with Turn the Tide on Plastic and
AkzoNobel bringing up the rear.
Turn the Tide on Plastic skipper Dee Caffari said her crew
were thinking of Fisher, nicknamed "Fish", and felt he was now
watching over the voyage.
"Many tears were shed both openly and privately. Fish
was a friend, a fan and a true supporter of our project," she said.
"He was a gifted sailor who was doing what he loved and
that gives us solace at this difficult time.".