Adelaide-based sailor John Fisher was lost overboard in a round-the-world race.An Adelaide-based sailor presumed lost at sea was not wearing a safety tether when he was knocked overboard during a yacht race, it’s been revealed.
John Fisher plunged into the Southern Ocean, around 1400 nautical miles west of Cape Horn, during the Volvo Ocean Race on Monday.
Officials of the round-the-world race say the team searched for several hours in high wind and big waves, although deteriorating conditions forced the crew to resume course toward South America.
Fellow crew from Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag said Mr Fisher had unclipped his tether to tidy up a sheet when the boat was caught in an accidental crash gybe – where the mainsail and its supporting boom swing across to the opposite side of the vessel.
According to a timeline of events released by the team, Mr Fisher was hit by the mainsheet system and knocked overboard. The crew believe he was already unconscious from the blow before hitting the water.
The 47-year-old, who was an experienced big boat sailor and was sailing in his first Volvo Ocean Race, was wearing a survival suit with a wetsuit hood and gloves and a lifejacket at the time.
Team manager Tim Newton described it as “the worst situation you can imagine happening to your team”.
He added: “We are absolutely heart-broken for John’s family and friends. I know for David (Witt, the boat’s skipper), he has lost his best friend. It’s devastating.”
Mr Newton said once the crew was safely back ashore there would be time to debrief more fully and ensure any lessons that can be learned from what happened to John are incorporated by the rest of the fleet.
“That would be a tremendous legacy for John, who spent so much of his time passing the learnings from his lifetime of experience at sea onto the younger sailors on our team.”